In Kate Chopin's time traditional patriarchal notions about women and sexuality deemed sexual passion a negligible, even improper, aspect of women's lives. Yet Chopin boldly addresses a woman's sexual desire in her short story "The Storm". This story shockingly details a torrid extramarital sexual encounter between Calixta and Alcee` in the midst of a raging storm. While this story line could have been presented in a traditional light, perhaps as a lesson about the evils of uninhibited female sexuality, Chopin maintains a non-judgmental stance by refraining from moralizing about the sanctity of marriage or impropriety of Calixta's actions. In failing to condemn and even condoning Calixta's actions, as well acknowledging the existence and depth of sexual desire in women, Chopin imbues "The Storm" with a strong feminist tone and calls the very institution of marriage into question.
The mere presence of Calixta's sexual desire and certainly its marked intensity make this story revolutionary in its feminist statement about female sexuality. Chopin uses the conceit of a thunderstorm to describe the development, peak, and ebbing of passion in the encounter between Calixta and Alcee`. At first, Calixta is unaware of the approaching storm, just as her sexual desire might be on an unconscious level; yet, as the storm approaches, Calixta grows warm and damp with perspiration. Chopin deliberately juxtaposes these two events when she writes that Calixta, "felt very warm...she unfastened her white saque at the throat. It began to grow dark and suddenly realizing the situation she got up and hurriedly went about closing windows and doors" (282). The gathering storm serves as ...
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...s Chopin expresses in this story would certainly have seemed outrageous to her contemporary society and would have been grounds for an almost universal condemnation of Chopin and her work. She daringly celebrates female sexuality and uses this celebration as a feminist assertion about women's equal potentialities and rights to express themselves and experience pleasure. That "every one was happy" when the storm passed suggests that revolutionizing traditional concepts of gender and marriage will change everyone's, especially women's, lives for the better.
Chopin, Kate. "The Storm: A Sequel to 'The 'Cadian Ball'." Kate Chopin: The Awakening and Selected Stories. New York: Penguin, 1984. 281-86.
Gilbert, Sandra M. "Introduction: The Second Coming of Aphrodite." Kate Chopin: The Awakening and Selected Stories. New York: Penguin, 1984. 7-33.
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