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Kate Chopin's the storm is about a woman named Calixta who rekindles a lost romance with a former lover in the midst of a storm. This story centers on lost love and being stuck in relationships that are unwanted. There is a lot of hidden meaning in the story, told well behind the characters and their surroundings, and it also has a strong plot, and a lot of symbolism.
The plot of a woman and a man rekindling a lost romance in the midst of a storm is one with a lot of innuendos. ""The Storm" helps to define the sexual standards and restraints of the late nineteenth century" (Bartee 1). The storm causes Bobinot and Bibi to be stuck in the market and wait out the storm, while the housewife, Calixta, sits alone, so into her housework that she doesn't even notice the storm is brewing. When she finally realizes, she hurries to shut the windows and goes outside to get the laundry before it is blown away in the wind. Then she notices Alcee, and he asks for shelter while the storm passes through. Chopin writes the scene almost in the vain of a steamy romance novel, building up to the climax, which in this story is the "climax". She adds a little tension also, when she writes "The growl of the thunder was distant and passing away. The rain beat softly upon the shingles, inviting them to drowsiness and sleep. But they dared not," (Chopin 33). At this point, Bobinot and Bibi are probably on their way home and just what if Calixta and Alcee did fall asleep on the couch, oh the "storm" that would arise if Bobinot and Bibi saw that sight. They don't fall asleep, and they say their goodbyes, and Bobinot and Bibi come home to a worried Calixta and supper on the table. Everybody is happy and Bobinot has no idea that his wife just cheated on him. Chopin also goes onto resolve that Alcee is married, but is happier when his wife is away, illustrated by the letter that he writes to his wife at the end. "He was getting on nicely; and though he missed them, he was willing to bear the separation a while longer realizing that their health and pleasure were the first things to be considered," (Chopin 123).
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This is a strong character-driven plot, and one can only have his or her opinion as to why each character was written the way they were. The story starts off with Calixta's husband, Bobinot, and their son Bibi, together in a store. They notice that a storm is brewing and decide to wait it out at the store. Bibi may start out as a flat character, but I feel there is a lot of hidden meaning in him. If feel that Bobinot loves Calixta very much, as illustrated by the can of shrimp that he just had to get before he sits back down to wait out the storm. "Then he returned to his perch on the keg and sat stolidly holding the can of shrimps while the storm burst," (Chopin 120). The storm is coming and all he could think of was Calixta and how much she likes the shrimp. Calixta plays a major role as the housewife staying at home doing housework. Back in the time women were supposed to stay home and do housework. "Calixta's sewing and doing chores around the house is what is normal for Calixta, but she is soon going to step outside of what society deems as normal and experience freedom for a brief moment in time," (Long-Kluckner 1). This may have played a role in the "convenience" of her marriage to Bobinot. Enter Alcee into the picture, as he comes looking for a place to hide from the storm, while Calixta just happens to be on the porch saving Bobinot's pants from blowing away with the wind. Alcee comes in and they both reminisce about the time when they were in Assumption. "Oh! She remembered; for in Assumption he had kissed her and kissed and kissed her; until his senses would well nigh fail, and to save her he would resort to a desperate flight," (Chopin 121) A love they once shared, but were probably forced into marriages of convenience. All of these characters help to create a strong dramatic plot and help the story come to a satisfying resolution.
There is a lot of symbolism in this story as well. The title itself suggests that there is some turmoil in the lives of the characters that you are reading. The title can be talking about the passion that the two main characters show for each other while in the midst of the storm. "This story represents the sexual reservations of Chopin's particular time period" (Bartee 2). So after their sexual encounter, Alcee and Calixta feel satisfied and without guilt. "So the storm passed and everyone was happy," (Chopin 123). The title can also be a reference to the marriage of Bobinot and Calixta. If Calixta was so in love with Alcee, why did she marry Bobinot? I think that their marriage is one of convenience and that she had to marry Bobinot. He probably has money and can provide a life for Calixta, which Alcee was probably unable to do at the time. Their passion for each other is still pretty hot and they don't waste too much time to get to satisfying their carnal desires. I think that Bibi is a symbol of the marriage of convenience between Calixta and Bobinot. If Bibi was not there it would probably be easier for Calixta to leave Bobinot. The can of shrimp that Bobinot buys for Calixta is also a symbol of his love for her. The only thing he can think about before settling in to wait for the storm to pass is Calixta and how she is probably wondering and worrying about where they are, so he buys the can of shrimp as a sort of preemptive strike at apology or a gift. The letter that Alcee writes at the end of the story also suggests that he too does not love his wife, but are married for convenience, as suggested by the line "and the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days," (Chopin 123). This could be the same path that Bobinot and Calixta are headed down.
The setting reinforced the plot of the story real well. Set back in the late nineteenth century when women were supposed to assume the role of the housewife and do chores and were in charge of the upkeep of the home. "In Chopin's time, men not only dictated sexual roles, but all roles of women were defined by men," (Long-Kluckner 1). An affair as described in this plot would be frowned upon back in that time. Bobinot could probably be someone important in the town and if anyone were to find out that his wife had an affair, she would be blasted with criticism and a figurative big letter A would be plastered on her chest. Somewhat of a Hester Prynne type character from Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter", Calixta has to assume her role as a married woman and do her chores. The house is well tended and kept up suggesting that Calixta has assumed her role as the housewife as suggested by the line, "She sat at a side window sewing furiously on a sewing machine. She was greatly occupied and did not notice the approaching storm," (Chopin 120). The storm that passes through is a window of opportunity to indulge in her desires as an old lover comes back into her life. "She had not seen him very often, and never alone," (Chopin 120), this line suggests that she has noticed him around, and wanted to talk to him or say hello, but his wife would always be with him, or she would always be with Bobinot. They get a chance now, as the storm passes through.
"The Storm" is a great story that represents where women were and where we are in today's world. No longer are women supposed to assume the roles of housewives. The woman and the man, or the man and the man, or the woman and the woman, both can assume an equal role to maintain a household. Sexual preferences and desires are not as frowned upon now as they were back then. One can be free to make a choice if you want to be with a person and not have to be stuck in an unwanted relationship.
Bartee, Joanna, ""The Storm": More Than Just a Story"
Kennedy, X.J. and Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. New York: Pearson Longman , 2005