The setting in this story creates the perfect environment for an adulterous affair. In Kate Chopin’s “The Storm”, Chopin not only creates the perfect setting but also uses the setting as a symbol of the affair.
Most likely occurring in the late 1800s and taking place in the deep South, the story gives an account of an adulterous affair between Calixta, wife to Bobinot and mother to four-year-old Bibi, and Alcee, husband to Clarisse, during a terrible rainstorm. The presence of the storm is not merely coincidental. It is the driving force behind the story and the affair. As the storm begins, climaxes and ends so do the affair and the story.
From the opening, we see that Chopin intends to use the storm to move the story forward. The story begins with Bobinot and Bibi inside the local store. As they attempt to leave they notice storm clouds approaching the town. Deciding to wait out the storm, they remain inside. Meanwhile, Calixta is at home sewing and unaware of the storm.
Soon realizing the storm is approaching, she begins frantically running about the house closing windows and doors and retrieving clothes left on the porch. Seeking shelter from the rain, Alcee approaches as Calixta steps onto her front porch. Chopin writes, “As she stepped outside, Alcee Laballiere rode in at the gate” (96).
By providing a terrible storm Chopin creates an ingenious setting for this chance meeting. Chopin’s intentions become even more apparent immediately after Alcee’s introduction. To propel the story forward Chopin uses the storm to force Alcee inside Calixta’s home.
The story reads: “He expressed an intention to remain outside, but it was soon apparent that he might as well have been out in the open: the water beat in upon the boards in driving sheets, and he went inside, closing the door after him” (Chopin 96). Author and critic Barbara Ewell wrote, “Chopin adroitly matches the storm’s irresistible development with the effects of passion on the two . . . lovers” (171).
It is clear at this point that Chopin wants to bring these two together and is using the stormy setting to accomplish this goal. After all, the meeting between Calixta and Alcee is certainly less valid if the storm isn’t present to bring it about.
As it climaxes the storm continues to move the story but also begins to symbolize the affair between Calixta and Alcee. Concerned about Bobinot and Bibi, Calixta peers out of her window to investigate just as a bolt of lightning strikes a nearby tree. Chopin again uses the storm to direct the action. Frightened by the bolt, “Calixta put her hands to her eyes, and with a cry, staggered backward” and “Alcee’s arms encircled her.” (Chopin 97).
Chopin takes advantage of the storm and uses it to literally push Calixta into Alcee’s arms. The affair reaches its climax shortly after their first embrace. As they finally give way to their passion for one another, Chopin changes how she uses the storm. While still using it to provoke and lead the story she also uses the storm to symbolize and confirm the romance. One critic noted that “The course of their passion parallels that of the storm . . . ” (Skaggs 61).
As the storm reaches its climax Chopin refers to the lovers: “They did not heed the crashing torrents and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms” (97). By describing the storm during the climax between Calixta and Alcee, Chopin is implying that their passion equals the intensity of the storm.
The storm continues to lead them but also symbolizes the passion they share. The storm begins to pass as the story nears its end, taking with it Alcee and the affair.
The story resumes with Calixta and Alcee enjoying their last few moments together. Chopin continues her effort to allow the storm to dictate the sequence of events. To convey the status of the affair she again refers to the storm.
By stating, “The rain was over” Chopin ends the sexual affair between Calixta and Alcee (Chopin 98). This is also another example of Chopin using the storm to symbolize the affair between the main characters.
As the storm ends and Alcee leaves, we see the return of Bobinot and Bibi. Calixta, more than grateful to see the two, greets them well and they all sit down to supper. Alcee writes his wife, Clarrise, who is vacationing, and lovingly tells her that he is doing well and to not hurry back. Clarrise returns his letter explaining that she is pleased to hear this and that she will indeed stay longer.
It is the last sentence in the story that makes the final comparison to the storm. “So the storm passed and everyone was happy” (Chopin 99). In one sentence Chopin ends the storm, the affair, and the story. This seems to confirm that Chopin intended to align the sequence of events with the development of the storm. It is also an excellent example of the symbolism used in the story. The denotation of the last sentence is that the characters are happy at the passage of the storm.
However, the connotation for Calixta and Alcee is much deeper, implying that their happiness is derived from the passion they shared during the storm. And so the story ends with everyone happy and satisfied. The storm is an effective setting and a more than adequate symbol.
From bringing the lovers together to describing their sexual climax and then quietly and stylishly ending the affair. It is the description of the storm that creates the foundation and intensity of the interlude between Calixta and Alcee. Carrying it from beginning, climax, and end, the storm is what makes it all possible.
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