The short story “The Storm” by Kate Chopin revolves around a setting that is both exciting and enticing. Chopin’s portrayal of the storm’s setting reinforces the plot’s main thematic elements through descriptive imagery that coincides with the characters emotions throughout the story. The characters in this story, Alcee and Calixta in particular, each make their own best of the situation as the storm hits. The storm is described as a violent one, with thrashing winds and blinding rain. The cracking of the thunder is frightening to Calixta, and jump-starts an emotional reunion between her and Alcee.
Alcee takes shelter in Calixta and her husband, Bobintot’s home before the storm begins. Alcee, hearing the rumble of the thunder and the uneasy voice of Calixta, tries to comfort her. While the rain beats against the door, he reminds her of a moment that they shared in Assumption. They then began to kiss one another as they did that night in Assumption. One thing led to another and they ended up engaging in a sexual encounter that was purely for the pleasure of each of them. In the late 1800’s sex was not looked upon as an experience that was meant to be pleasurable for a woman, instead it was looked upon as an obligation of a wife to her husband.
The setting of this story seems to act as a catalyst for these two individuals to look back at their past together and to relive it. While Calixta and Alcee are fornicating, her husband and son, Bibi, are taking cover in a cistern from the storm. They were out getting shrimp for Calixta to cook for dinner. Bibi had been splashed with mud on his good pants and the collar of his shirt, and his father commented “My! Bibi, w’at will yo’ mama say!” (Chopin 117). They then freshened up a bit to appear more becoming when they returned home. It seems that Bobintot cares very much for his wife and always wants him and his son to look presentable when they are around Calixta. It also seems as though the two are not too worried about Calixta’s welfare during the storm, although the story does make mention of whether she will be alright or not.
When Alcee and Calixta are talking inside her house about their time in Assumption, Chopin writes:
For in Assumption, he had kissed and kissed and kissed her; until his senses would well nigh fail, and to save her he would resort to a desperate flight. If she was not an immaculate dove in those days, she was still inviolate; a passionate creature whose very defenselessness had made her defense, against which his honor forbade him to prevail. (Chopin 116).
This is telling the reader that they did not make love back in Assumption. Calixta was a virgin then and they were too afraid of being caught to give themselves to each other. If they had sex, Calixta would have probably become pregnant and their reputations would have been destroyed. She would have been labeled a harlot and Alcee’s honor would have been ruined. However; now in this moment of the storm, she is married, and if they have sex and she gets pregnant, everyone will assume that the baby belongs to Bobintot and she will not be caught.
Then storm then ended and Alcee rode off on his horse. Bobintot and Bibi returned home with the shrimp and Calixta acted very excited to see them. She got excited and told her husband: “Shrimps! Oh, Bobintot! You too good fo’ anything!” (Chopin 117) and kissed him and Bibi excessively. The reader also learns that Alcee has a wife that is staying in Biloxi. Alcee wrote a loving letter to her that night telling her that he is doing well and that she should stay in Biloxi if she and the children are fairing well there.
The setting often invokes emotional responses that force the characters to react accordingly, which, in turn develops the plot. The surrounding storm is a representation of Calixta’s bound up inner emotions. She seems to feel like she has no pleasure in her life and can’t do anything that she wants to do. This is why she so effortlessly acts out in the manner she does with Alcee. The story tells the reader that while Calixta is in Alcee’s arms, the thunder and wind do not faze her whatsoever when Chopin writes:
“They need not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms. She was a revelation in that dim, mysterious chamber; as white as the couch she lay upon.” (Chopin 116). On any given afternoon, a storm of this magnitude would easily frighten Calixta, as she was frightened before Alcee took her into his arms, however; while romancing with Alcee, Calixta was at peace with the storm. The reader can infer that Calixta is overwhelmingly enthused by the situation that she is in. Furthermore, the storm actually acts as a sort of door that allows these actions to take place.
“The Storm” was written and set in the late 1800’s, when women had few purposes in life other than cleaning, cooking, bearing children, and pleasing their husbands. Kate Chopin seemed to contradict this in her writing. Writing a story about a woman’s extramarital affair with a man, who is also married, was something that few people wrote about or agreed with in her day. In fact, the majority of society strongly disagreed with her work. So much even that she was not allowed to publish anymore after her novel The Awakening.
In conclusion, Chopin’s portrayal of the storm’s setting reinforces the plot’s main thematic elements through descriptive imagery that coincides with the characters emotions throughout the story. Chopin’s use of descriptive imagery in “The Storm” draws the reader into the setting and provides essential elements for plot development. Chopin utilizes the stormy setting to portray the characters participating in sinful acts that at the time were considered taboo. Also, the setting of “The Storm” provides for the reader an atmosphere capable for understanding and relating to the plot’s many themes. Not only does the setting provide essential elements for plot development, it also acts somewhat as a separate character in itself by affecting the mood and actions of the main characters.
Chopin, Kate. “The Storm”. Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama.
Eds. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 3rd. ed. New York: Longman, 2002. 114-118.
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