The Storm (short story)
"The Storm" is a short story by the American writer Kate Chopin, written in 1898. It did not appear in print in Chopin's lifetime; it was published in 1969. This story is the sequel to Chopin's At the Cadian Ball.
Bobinôt and his four-year-old son, Bilbo, are at Friedheimer's store when a particularly violent storm begins to emerge. The two decide to remain at the store until the storm peters out. Bobinôt then decides to buy a can of shrimp for his wife, Calixta, while the pair waits for the storm to abate.
Meanwhile, back at their house, Calixta is so occupied with her sewing that, at first, she does not notice the ominous clouds or thunder. Finally, she notices that it is growing darker outside and decides to shut the windows and retrieve Bobinôt's clothes, which are hanging outside. Alcée, one of Calixta's former beaus, rides up on his horse and helps her remove the remaining clothes from the line.
The storm worsens and Calixta invites Alcée into her home until it abates. Alcée is hesitant to come in and stays outside until it becomes apparent that the storm is not going to let up. Calixta gathers up the lengths of cotton sheet she had been sewing while Alcée takes a seat in the rocker. Calixta goes over to the window and observes the intensity of the storm and worries about her husband and son. Alcée attempts to comfort her and reminisces about the passion they once felt for each another. As the storm increases in intensity, so does the passion of the two former lovers. Alcée brings up the passion and love they once had for one another. The adulterers' sexual encounter ends at the same time as the storm. Alcée rides off on his horse.
Bobinôt and Bibi return from the grocery store and Calixta immediately embraces them. Bobinôt presents his gift of the can of shrimp to his wife and she remarks that they will feast that night. Meanwhile, Alcée writes a loving letter to his wife, Clarisse, and encourages her to stay in Biloxi as long as she needs. He notes that their well-being is more important than the separation anxiety that he endures. Clarisse is charmed by the letter and is happy in Biloxi because she feels free, as if she were a maiden again. Though she is devoted to her husband, Clarisse feels that she is able to forego intimacy with him for some time. The story ends with the short line, "So the storm passed and every one was happy."
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The Storm is a story of sexuality, a topic not publicly discussed in 1898 (the story was not published in Chopin's lifetime). The relationship between Calixta and Alcée holds a degree of passion absent from their marriages. Calixta is scared of the storm, but Alcée's calmness relaxes her. When Alcée embraces her after the lightning hits the Chinaberry tree, it reminds her of the love she once had for Alcée; "A bolt struck a tall chinaberry tree at the edge of the field. It filled all visible space with a blinding glare and the crash seemed to invade the very boards they stood upon" (par.19). The storm is causing destruction, like the bruise she put on her marriage by having the affair with Alcée. Calixta's sexuality is directly tied to the storm.
The story takes place in Louisiana, and the majority of Calixta's neighbors are Catholic. Before using plastic and glass beads to make rosaries, Chinaberries were used. The Chinaberry tree being struck by lightning is also representative of Calixta's sin in a Catholic area, where adultery is considered a sin that is so grave that it sends them to hell unless they repent before they die.  This piece was written at a time when faith was beginning to be questioned."As she glanced up at him the fear in her liquid blue eyes had given place to a drowsy gleam that uncounsciously betrayed a sensuous desire. He looked down into her eyes and there was nothing for him to do but gather her lips in a kiss. It reminded him of Assumption" (par. 20).
The narrator begins by describing Calixta as a worrisome wife, but, after Alcée notices her for the first time in five years, the description shifts to her youthful beauty. Calixta's husband, the reader assumes, no longer looks at her the way Alcée does. "She was a little fuller of figure than five years before when she married; but she had lost nothing of her vivacity" (par. 12). He sees her as a real woman, but she pretends that everything has changed especially after having a child. After the rain stops "the sun was turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems" (par.29). This could symbolize new outlooks on the two lovers' marriages. The metaphor could also mean, since the rain was the passion, and the world was their perception of both their marriages (all the blinds closed i.e. not thinking about their marriages), and the palace of gems is how beautiful their marriages looked afterward, then their marriages won't have that beauty with time, because like the world after a rain when the sun is shining, it only glistens until the rain dries up. The story ends with the quote "So the storm passed and everyone was happy," (par. 39) symbolizing Calixta and Alcée were happy to have the affair. It helped their marriages and both spouses remained unaware "Alcee Laballiere wrote to his wife, Clarisse, that night. It was a loving letter, full of tender solicitude....though he missed them, he was willing to bear the separation a while longer...Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while" (par. 37-38). The point of view is third-person omniscient.
The story also highlights images of purity. White imagery is introduced at the beginning of the second section when Calixta unbuttons her white blouse at the neck. When we see the interior of the house for the first time, the narrator describes the "white, monumental bed." When the sexual tension is released, the sexualized purity reaches a climax; her neck, exposed by the act of unbuttoning, is white, and her breasts are "whiter." She is "as white as the couch she lay upon," and her passion is described as a "white flame." Added to this seemingly paradoxical use of white are the references to the Virgin Mary. While Assumption is a place name, it is also the feast that celebrates the bodily ascension of Mary into heaven, a metaphorical description of what has just happened to Calixta, and, to further the connection, "[h]er firm, elastic flesh" is compared to a "creamy lily." The lily is Mary's flower.
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- Robert L. Gale. Characters and Plots in the Fiction of Kate Chopin. McFarland, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7864-4005-4