The Storm is one of the most popular short stories by the American writer Kate Chopin, who is famous for her brave illustration of sexuality in her works. The story tells about people waiting for the storm to pass. Though, during this storm, peculiarities of the relationships between the main heroes are shown. The story can be understood literally, but many points and themes can be missed due to a unique way of storytelling. Even the central image, the thunderstorm, is not just a weather condition here. When analyzing The Storm, it becomes clear that everything in it has a much deeper meaning, and it is full of hidden symbols.
At the beginning of the story, the reader meets Bobinôt and his son Bibi, who were at the store when the storm began. They are worried about their wife and mother Calixta, who stayed at home alone, and was scared of the sudden weather change. The introduction part of the story reveals many facts about Bobinôt and Calixta’s marriage. It shows the strict standards of that time, as women back then were supposed to maintain the household, and men were allowed to the outside world. In the first chapter, there is a dialogue in which the head of the family tells his son: “Maybe she got Sylvie helpin’ her this evenin’” (Chopin 592), and Bibi answers that Sylvie helped the mother the day before. The situation proves that the man has little interest in his wife’s affairs at home, leaving it all as her responsibility.
Back at home, Calixta is worried about the whereabouts of her husband and son. She is sewing when she hears the storm coming and decides to go outside to gather laundry. In this scene, the reader sees that she feels uncomfortable at home, it is indicated by her need to take off the collar of her gown from her throat. The author remarks that the color of her collar is classic white, which is usually associated with purity, and Calixta’s restlessness means discomfort with general expectations of female virtue.
When outside, Calixta meets Alcée who helps her gather laundry, and asks to stay with her until the rain stops. The story immediately reveals the fact that they are former lovers. It can be proven by their speech style: “His voice and her own startled her as if from a trance” (Chopin 593). The thunderstorm here is the main metaphor of the story, symbolizing the passion of former lovers. There is an allegory for this meeting, as the somber clouds are rolling, the tension between them is building. The author shows the characters as being loyal to their spouses, as Alcée plans to stay on the porch without entering the house, but the rain is too strong, and he has to come in.
Alcée is not planning on seducing Calixta, but he desires to help her cope with anxiety and fear. Here, the reader can find another symbol, as: “she rolled up a piece of bagging and Alcée helped her to thrust it beneath the crack” (Chopin 593). The author uses the language with sexual intent when describing the storm as the most powerful in years. The reader may understand it as if Calixta was saying that she had not been so sexually excited for a long time.
Eventually, Calixta and Alcée accept their lust and make love while the storm is still ongoing. In this scene, the white color is mentioned again, describing the woman being “as white as the couch she lay upon” (Chopin 594). It symbolizes again that sex between two lovers is an act of love and not a ferocious betrayal. The author shows the sex of Calixta and Alcée, implying that intimate relations are an integral part of human life. When the storm ends, the sun emerges “turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems” (Chopin 595). The world becomes more beautiful and happier when the rain ends, as well as the lovers split with a feeling of peace and joy. After Alcée departs, Bobinôt and Bibi return home, and they are surprised to find Calixta in a great mood. The romantic episode between her and Alcée worked in the family’s favor, as she became more caring. It proved once again that here sex is depicted as a healthy act of love.
At the end of the story, Alcée sends a letter to his wife Clarisse, who is on a trip with their kids. The woman finds that she enjoys the feeling of liberation, which she has while being far from her husband. The reader may conclude that Alcée is a husband demanding too much attention from his wife. Thus, in the end, all the characters seem to be content with their lives.
In conclusion, the storm is the central metaphor of the short story that symbolizes the affair between two of the characters. The author implies that their relations are profound and potentially destructive, similar to the weather condition. Chopin used her story to raise questions about women’s sexuality, which was not acceptable to discuss in the society of that time. The author demonstrated not a typical opinion on adultery, showing it as a not bad passage. The use of many symbols in the story makes it not easy to understand at the first reading, thus, creating a unique work of literature.
Chopin, Kate. “The Storm”. The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, Louisiana State UP, 1969, pp.592-596