The Storm by Kate Chopin Essay
The Storm, by Kate Chopin, was written in 1898.
The story is allegorical and deals with the theme of feminism specifically in the area of sexuality. There are four characters in the story, though the boy, Bibi, is barely mentioned, and the husband, Bobinot, a farmer married to Calixta, does not play a prominent role. The two main characters, protagonists of this tale, are Calixta, the wife of Bobinot, and Alcee, Calixta’s former lover, who reenters her life after her marriage and the birth of her son.Alcee’s wife is mentioned in the denouement but plays no role in the plot except as a rhetorical device that may give Alcee license to cheat on her. The plot revolves around the willingness of Calixta and Alcee to commit adultery in the marriage bed of Calixta and Bobinot. It utilizes metaphor beginning with the title of the story.
The storm is more than the physical elements, which rage, leading up to, and culminating in, the sex, act between Calixta and Alcee (Mohr p 2). The point of view is third person omnipotent, with the narrator being privy to the thoughts and emotions of the characters.The Storm is spare of words and everything Chopin has to say is significant to the unfolding plot. Feminist sexuality, as related by Chopin, seems at odds with what is commonly thought of as a Victorian Era in America during the culmination of the 19th century.
Tellingly, there is no remorse on the part of either participant in the adulterous act. By way of contrast, the opposite seems to be the case as both Calixta and Alcee are seemingly rather satisfied with what they have done.Calixta is overly loving to her husband who returns to his home with his young son, blissfully unaware that the storm from which he and his boy had taken shelter was likewise raging in his marriage bed while nature pounded his land. The reader is told that the act was, in the long run, beneficial to both Bobinot and to Alcee’s wife for independent reasons.
The reader is left to assume that neither of the two sub characters will ever learn of the act and so are enriched by a deed to which they are not privy. The denouement clearly illustrates the old adage that ‘what we don’t know can’t hurt us.As the physical storm rages, and Bobinot and his son seek shelter in a store, Alcee arrives at the home of Calixta to seek his own form of shelter and succor in the arms of his paramour. “…Calixta and Alcee, had a flirtation several years before the story takes place, but each made a more suitable marriage to someone else and they have not seen each other since,” (Bartee). She does not need any convincing. Chopin uses metaphor again to show how Calixta puts aside her wifely duties to service the physical needs of both Alcee and herself.
Chopin allows the storm to rage as the passions of the two lovers rise in intensity, and allowing the storm to subside as the passions of the two are sated. Such devices as the sheets from Calixta’s bed and the Sunday dress pants of her husband are put out of sight so that she can commit this violation of her wedding vows without seeing the physical reminders confronting her. Chopin describes the scene thus, “ The door stood open, and the room with its white, monumental bed, its closed shutters, looked dim and mysterious,” (Chopin II-9).The symbolism in Calixta preparing her husband’s church clothes is evidence that the laws of the church are being questioned and likely violated.
Still, Calixta is not painted as a bad person, being more benign than evil, but clearly she is in violation of not only her vows to her husband but sinning in the eyes of her church. Alcee moves Bobinot’s pants off the clothesline where they are in danger of being damaged by the storm, putting them out of view. This is an intimate act for one man to perform for another, particularly a man he is about to cuckold.He demonstrates, by this act, a total lack of regard for Bobinot’s privacy or his intimate possessions.
Those things, which should remain private between a man and wife, are handled by a third party, with the willing duplicity of the wife. Calixta puts the sheets from her marriage bed away to that Alcee will not have to see them, it would appear. She is, by this act, symbolically putting aside her marriage vows as well by hiding these symbols of the intimacy she should be sharing with only her husband.Chopin not only makes no judgment, but shows that the both the marriage of Calixta and Alcee are improved by this act of sexual passion with an old flame.
Chopin makes the point that just as the storms of nature are a part of the landscape, so, too, are the storms of passion which ebb and flow in the psyches’ of humans. They can clear the air and bring a new sense of well being to a statically charged atmosphere. The actual performance of the sex act is done quickly and not described by Chopin.Still, the ebb of the lovers’ passions corresponds with the waning of the storm raging outside the home, permitting Bobinot to safely return to his home with his child.
Both nature and humanity, Chopin is saying, have returned to a normal state. Alcee, it is said, departs the house all smiles, leaving his consort laughing and pleased with the afternoon events, their passions spent like the storm that raged around them a little earlier. With the passing of the storm of passion and the storm of nature Calixta is willing to return to the humdrum life of a wife and mother to her child.Her character’s mood is improved greatly though her husband has no idea that this is the case and dreads having to face her wrath after letting the boy get wet and muddy, causing his wife more work. Bobinot is so afraid of his wife’s displeasure that he spends time cleaning mud and grime from the boy as much as possible and has gone to the trouble and the expense of buying shrimps, a delicacy his wife loves. The fact that he is so concerned with her mood makes it seem apparent that such a dark mood is more her norm than the pleasant attitude she possesses after her afternoon tryst and sexual liaison.
The gift of food, a metaphor for comfort, is delivered as a peace offering though it seems that Bobinot has done nothing to offend his wife. Chopin writes that though Bobinot expects his wife to be in a foul mood, her character has changed after an event of which Bobinot has no knowledge and she is a different person from what he expects. He is met with a kiss and a smile and in return he makes his gift known, with a feast in the offing. The anti-climax of this story is that the reader sees a letter from Alcee to his wife, saying, in effect, that he is well and there is no need for her to hurry home.The reader is made aware that marital duties are a chore to his wife and she is pleased with the news. She is free of any sexual chores for a time and all of the characters have been made whole by the events that occurred during the storm.
The character of Calixta is more serene at the end of the story than at the beginning, undergoing an obvious transformation. She has evolved and her husband would likely argue for the better. She is a better person for having committed what is generally viewed as a despicable act.