“When he possessed her, they seemed to swoon together at the very borderland of life’s mystery” and for the first time Calixta truly live, breathed, and existed in a society dominated by men, and in a her own world controlled by her husband in a passionless marriage. Calixta is the central character to Kate Chopin’s short story “The Storm” and is offered to the reader as a reflection of the role and the lack of fulfillment of women in the late 18th century (Beer 4). Much of Kate Chopin’s work, like “The Storm”, explores gender related issues including marriage, divorce, family relationships and female sexuality .“The Storm” is a neatly packaged product of her feminist investigation. Through humor, wit, and skillfully used literary elements Chopin breathes life into the story of a woman completely controlled by her husband who experiences momentary freedom and true happiness when she has an affair with a man who is not her husband.
The idea of family and family relationships has changed greatly in the last half century (Toth 222). However, the family has already been, traditionally, a wife, husband and children. The burden of a family is repressive and restricts women minds, bodies, and sexuality.Chopin articulates the way women felt about marriage in the 18th century. While typically it is the man, in current society, that complains of restriction and unhappiness, it used to the woman. Chopin makes it clear that marriage is a way in which men control women.
Beyond that women were often repressed sexually because they were seen as unsexual beings. Calixta in “The Storm” is described as a sexual being who wants to find passion (Beer 8). Beer continues “she is a volcano ready to erupt when she is placed into a situation where her family was not around and she was able to experience things that satisfied her true self” (11).Kate Chopin was a female author that was not afraid to express her viewpoints and explore issues which were considered taboo in society. Her feminist approach and reflection was way before her times. Fellow authors, peers, and the public criticizes her writing and believed that it was vulgar and not appropriate for society (Green 56). Women were forced to behave in a certain way that society believe to be proper and right. This was particularly important in terms of a woman’s sexuality.
Chopin blasted society for its ignorance and believed that society should be more advance and women should fight for their right to be who they really are (Simons 29). Chopin believed the construct of the family was an inhibiting factor in women’s lives.Kate Chopin created “The Storm,” subtitled “A Sequel to the ‘Cadian Ball”, almost six years to the day after she wrote the first story -about the fiery-tempered planter Alcée and his flirtation with the “Spanish vixen” Calixta(Green 104). At that story’s end, both had chosen sensible marriages: Alcée to his dainty cousin Clarisse, a woman of his class, and Calixta to Bobinôt, a clumsy, good-hearted ‘Cadian. “The Storm” begins five years later. Calixta, a fussy housewife, is toiling furiously at her sewing machine, when a summer thunderstorm sweeps over her house. Alcée, riding by, comes in for shelter.
Green asserts “a sudden thunderbolt sends her into his arms, and a wordless impulse propels them into the bedroom” (101). Before, they had held back, but now -everything seems possible (Green 102).Chopin described their passion as mutual power and desire — laughing, generous, mysterious. “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.” No guilt disturbs them, and no deception:The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached.
.When he touched her breasts, they gave themselves up in quivering ecstasy, inviting his lips. Her mouth was a fountain of delight (8).And then, “when he possessed her, they seemed to swoon together at the very borderland of life’s mystery” (10).Afterwards, the storm dies down and he rides away, while Calixta laughs aloud. She greets her husband and son with effusive kisses, while Alcée sends a loving letter to his wife, away at the Biloxi resort with their babies.
Stay a month longer if you’d like, he says — and Clarisse, in turn, is pleased with that “first free breath since her marriage.” And so, Chopin concludes, “The storm passed and every one was happy” (11).Compared with his character in “At the ‘Cadian Ball,” Alcée in “The Storm” is a well-behaved, charming gentleman — no longer a morose heavy drinker (Hoder-Salmon 71). The first story takes place during a warm dark night, while the second is a daring daylight tryst, in much bolder language.
Although James Lane Allen in Summer in Arcady and Thomas Hardy in Jude the Obscure had written about breasts, the word was considered taboo for women writers. (As late as 1920, Willa Cather references to a woman’s breast and thigh were cut from a story in the Smart Set magazine.)Also, Calixta in “The Storm” is even more recognizable as Maria Normand of Cloutierville. Not only does Calixta still have kinky blonde hair, but she also sews — and Maria was the best-known seamstress in the parish (her mother-in-law’s sewing machine, the first in Cloutierville, is now in the Bayou Folk Museum) (Simons 29). When Chopin wrote “The Storm,” Maria was living across the horse lot from Albert Sampite, with her twelve-year-old daughter and thirteen-year-old son. Holder-Salmon states “everyone knew that Albert — who drank a great deal but never seemed drunk — was paying her bills” 99).
Albert might have found “The Storm” flattering, but Kate Chopin knew no American magazine would touch such a celebration of “guilty love,” and she never tried to publish it. Although anthologies a century later often reprint “The Storm” as a startling story from the Victorian era, no Victorians ever read it, nor did anyone in Cloutierville (Hoder-Salmon 71). “The Storm” was not published at all, anywhere, until 1969.Chopin, in “The Storm”, criticizes the traditional family relationships. She asserts that they are restrictive, abusive, and causes emotional death(Pontuale 1).
Pontuale observes “Chopin is the voice of women during the 18th century who found themselves drowning in family life and aching, sometimes silently, for passion which exists in novels and fairytales (1). Chopin sacrificed herself – her own family, career, and reputation, to write about the issues she believed was important. When “The Storm” was first published it did not publicly appeal to anyone – at least to no one who would admit it. Literature with taboo subjects were read for the purposes of critique and public disproval. However, somewhere along the line Kate Chopin inspired other female authors to continue to write . Today, I think this story appeals to wide range of people and ages. People who feel that they are being controlled and are struggling to find their own path in the world – for high school students it maybe the constraints of their own peers, for college students the control and approval of their parents, for adults who are involved in relationships were they do not feel fulfilled – and anyone who has a lost themselves and felt a moment of joy for their own new beginning.