The Storm by Kate Chopin
In The Storm by Kate Chopin we have the theme of liberation, freedom, passion and sexuality. Set in the late nineteenth century the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises how important the setting of the story is. In many ways the storm mirrors the passionate encounter between Calixta and Alcée. As the storm is just about to arrive, so too does Alcée to Calixta’s home and as the storm begins to have an effect on the surroundings of the house, likewise Calixta and Alcée become closer (physically) eventually sleeping with each other. And as the storm passes and the calm returns, Alcée leaves Calixta’s home returning to his own home leaving behind a calm Calixta. It is also interesting that rather than having a negative effect on their marriages, Calixta and Alcée’s affair appears to have brought them closer to their respective spouses (Bobinôt and Clarisse). This may be significant as it is possible that Chopin is exploring the idea of marriage or at least society’s perception of what a marriage may be and the needs that each individual may have, which may not necessarily be addressed within a marriage.
From the beginning of the story Calixta appears to be playing the role of a homemaker, which would have been the predominant role for women at the time the story was written. She is busy sewing and looking after Bobinôt’s clothes while Bobinôt and Bibi are at the store. By allowing Calixta to have an affair with Alcée, Chopin may be suggesting that Calixta has needs (sexual) that are not being addressed within her marriage to Bobinôt and as such she has an affair with Alcée. It is also possible that Calixta’s marriage lacks the passion that she would like it to have and by having an affair with Alcée, Calixta is able to explore her sexuality. How shocking this may have been at the time the story was written is noticeable by the fact that the story wasn’t published until 1969, over seventy years after Chopin wrote it. There is also a sense that Calixta feels liberated after having the affair with Alcée, which at the time the story was written may not have been acceptable to society.
It is also possible that Chopin may be suggesting that an individual, when married, can also feel trapped (or restricted) within their marriage, which appears to be the case for not only Calixta but for Clarisse too. On receipt of Alcée’s letter the reader becomes aware that Clarisse is relieved that she does not have to return home immediately. Chopin telling the reader that Clarisse felt ‘the first free breath since her marriage.’ This line may be important as it could suggest that Clarisse may have felt obliged to return home to Alcée and that she too (like Calixta) may have a role to play within her marriage (as the dutiful wife). It may also be a case that Chopin is suggesting that with marriage comes a loss of freedom or independence and by having Clarisse stay in Biloxi, Chopin is allowing her to be independent of Alcée.
There is also some symbolism which may be important. It is possible that Chopin is using the colour white in the story to symbolise passion or sexuality. At the start of the story Chopin tells the reader that Calixta ‘unfastened her white sacque at the throat’. Later while Calixta is in her bedroom with Alcée, Chopin mentions the ‘white, monumental bed.’ Also as Alcée is kissing Calixta, Chopin makes reference to Calixta’s ‘white neck’, ‘white throat’ and ‘white breasts.’ By using the colour white it is possible that Chopin is highlighting or suggesting the passion that exists between Calixta and Alcée. The fact that Bobinôt is absent from the house (and most of the story) and that Clarisse is in Biloxi may also be symbolically important as by having both characters absent, Chopin may also be suggesting the absence of passion in Calixta and Alcée’s marriages. Neither Calixta nor Alcée may feel sexually fulfilled in their marriages and their desire for sexual fulfilment has resulted in both of them conducting an affair. The lightning bolt which strikes the chinaberry tree may also be symbolically important as Chopin may be suggesting that this explosion of energy mirrors in many ways the passion that both Calixta and Alcée feel for each other while they are together in Calixta’s bedroom. Though just as the lightning bolt is a short burst of energy, likewise Calixta and Alcée’s affair may also be short-lived.
It is also interesting that the narrator remains non-judgemental throughout the story, leaving it to the reader to decide as to whether Calixta and Alcée’s affair is right or wrong. Though some critics may suggest that what Calixta and Alcée have done is wrong, it is also possible that Chopin is suggesting that even though an individual may be married and have desires (or passions) which cannot be fulfilled within a marriage, they may still continue to remain married. It may be a case that Chopin is suggesting that despite their affair both Calixta and Alcée will remain (happily) in their respective marriages, something that is a little clearer at the end of the story when Chopin tells the reader ‘so the storm passed and every one was happy.’