Feminine Sexuality and Passion in Kate Chopin's The Storm

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Feminine Sexuality and Passion in Kate Chopin's The Storm

In Kate Chopin's short story The Storm, the narrative surrounds the brief extramarital affair of two individuals, Calixta and Alcée. Many critics do not see the story as a condemnation of infidelity, but rather as an affirmation of human sexuality. This essay argues that "The Storm" may be interpreted as an affirmation of feminine sexuality and passion as well as a condemnation of its repression by the constraints of society.

If one is to attempt to interpret The Storm, it becomes necessary to examine the conditions surrounding the story's genesis. The story was written in 1898, very shortly after Chopin had completed "The Awakening", "the boldest treatment so far in American literature of the sensuous, independant woman" (Seyersted 1969, p164). "The Storm" was not published, however, until well after Chopin's death, doubtless because of the as-yet unparalleled sensuousness of the story and its characters. In his critical biography Kate Chopin, Per Seyersted argues that "The Storm" is objective in its portrayal of human sexuality and that Chopin is "not consciously speaking as a woman, but as an individual" (p169). One must question this assertion, however; it is doubtful that in writing "The Storm" so soon after completing her 'feminist' novel, Chopin had "the protest of "The Awakening" off her mind" (p169).

The title of "The Storm", with its obvious connotations of sexual energy and passion, is of course critical to any interpretation of the narrative. Chopin's title refers to nature, which is symbolically feminine; the storm can therefore be seen as symbolic of feminine sexuality and passion, and the image of the storm will ...

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...l constraints; her unreserved portrayal of feminine sexuality would have been seen as a radical affront to the society of her time. The ending is therefore purposefully ambiguous: one may see the storm's passage as implying a happy ending, or one may see it as implying that the storm will eventually return, perhaps with the intent to destroy. Kate Chopin, however, sees feminine sexuality as something that is pure, natural, and very real in its existence; one cannot assume that a brief and limited awakening that passes like a storm will be enough to make one happy.

List of References Used

* Chopin, Kate. "The Storm" in Fiction 100: An Anthology of Short Stories (6th edition), by James H. Pickering. Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada, 1992.

* Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969.

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