Kate Chopin is today recognized as among the preeminent proto-feminist writers. Her work, which was largely published in the late 19th century, focuses on progressive themes of female empowerment. Her short story “The Storm” takes place during a storm. During the storm, a woman named Calixta has an affair with her former lover Alce Laballire. At the time of the affair, her husband Bobint and their child Bibi are stuck in a store waiting for the storm to subside. Eventually they return home and Calixta leaves. The present essay explicates a passage from this story in which Calixta and Alce embrace and engage in their amorous affair.
The specific passage being examined takes place towards the conclusion of part II. In part I, the passage focused on Bibi and Bobint, who were stuck in the store; while in this passage, the story focuses explicitly on Alce and Calixta. Although all of part II emphasizes the affair between Calixta and Alce, this particular passage is unique in that it powerfully articulates the intensity of their relationship. The first line of the passage indicates, “They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms” (Chopin). In this instance, one clearly recognizes Chopin’s use of the storm metaphor. Critics have considered this metaphor in relation to a number of potential things. One critic argued that, “The actual storm that occurs serves as an ambiguous metaphor for the affair between Calixta and Alcee” (Bodenmiller 1). From this perspective, the storm functions as a means of articulating the rocky relationship – as well as the sexual encounter — that was shared between Calixta and Alce, including their past relationships. Another possible interpretation of this metaphor is that it constitutes a comment on the nature of Calixta and Bobint’s marriage, which will undoubtedly undergo a significant amount of challenges because of the affair. In the second part of this sentence, Calixta laughs at the roaring elements as she lay in his arms. Once again, Chopin appears to be advancing a metaphor. Namely, Calixta’s laughing at the elements would seem to constitute a means through which she is disregarding social convention through engaging in such an affair. Instances like this are what give the story its truly powerful and lasting nature, because through them Chopin is making a revolutionary statement about appropriate female identity and behavior in a way that is counter to existing public opinion at the time.
In the second sentence in the passage, Chopin focuses internally on what is taking place in relation to Calixta. This passage states, “She was a revelation in that dim, mysterious chamber; as white as the couch she lay upon” (Chopin). Among the important questions related to this story and this passage is the extent that Calixta has engaged in morally dubious behavior by participating in this affair. Critics have considered this question and noted that, “the search for selfhood are presented as part of a positive process, despite what the social and moral commandments say” (Stein 53). This question is significant in relation to this passage because Chopin appears to be using white color symbolism as a means of attesting to Calixta’s virtuous behavior. Focusing on the white symbolism, another critic argued, “The calyx of the mature lily is the same white as the flower petals themselves; Calixta likewise presents a totally white impression, for she is wearing a “white sacque” which she unfastens “at the throat” (Baker 225). Further, this critic states that the, “generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame” (Baker 225). Subsequently, this passage and the white symbolism within it and throughout the text are significant as a means of attesting to Calixta’s feminist empowerment within the context of her womanhood and marriage.
In the third part of the passage, Chopin continues to focus directly on Calixta, but interrelates this attention with the aforementioned affair. Chopin writes, “Her firm, elastic flesh that was knowing for the first time its birthright, was like a creamy lily that the sun invites to contribute its breath and perfume to the undying life of the world” (Chopin). In this instance, one recognizes that Chopin in large part continues to advance the narrative surrounding female empowerment and Calixta’s virtuosity in the face of the affair. One recognizes that continued theme in regards to Chopin’s indication that Calixta’s flesh knew for the first time its birthright. Such a statement would seem to reflect the underlining assumption that Calixta was justified in engaging in this type of behavior because it constituted her naturally realizing her true self. Another writer noted that in relation to this story, “Her writing challenged the American newspaper tradition by the bold expression of woman’s longing for sexual and personal freedom, which makes Calixta feel liberated and not as a sinner” (张佳音 248). Similarly, yet another critic recognized that, “With women like Calixta from “The Storm”…Chopin offers alternatives to the stifling married life of the period” (Farca 1). In this respect, Chopin is indicating that just as the flower opens up to the world and blooms, so is Calixta exhibiting her sexuality through such an affair a natural part of her womanhood. Of course, the metaphor of the white lily flower and its blooming represents such a metaphor of natural realization of this selfhood.
In conclusion, this essay has examined a passage from Kate Chopin’s “The Storm.” Within this spectrum of investigation, the research has argued that this passage implements metaphor to articulate the nature of the affair Calixta is participating in, as well as her purity in relation to this affair. From a broader perspective, it’s clear that Chopin is advancing a more comprehensive critique and re-imagination of the nature of feminist identity and liberating Calixta from these shackles. Ultimately, this story is powerful because in Chopin’s aesthetic sensibility and artistry, as well in relation to her revolutionary feminist imagination.
- 张佳音. “Calixta is Not A Sinner—A Feminism Study of Kate Chopin’s ‘The Storm’.” 校园英语 4 (2017): 248-248.
- Baker, Christopher. “Chopin’s the Storm.” The explicator 52.4 (1994): 225-226.
- Bodenmiller, Amy. “A Stormy Justification: New Criticism on Chopin’s” The Storm”.” (2013).
- Farca, Paula Anca. “Foucault informs Kate Chopin’s short fiction.” Academic Exchange Quarterly 11.1 (2007): 120-124.
- Stein, Allen. “The Kaleidoscope of Truth: A New Look at Chopin’s” The Storm”.” American Literary Realism 36.1 (2003): 51-64.