Romantic Love and Morality in “The Storm”
The primary theme that is conveyed by Kate Chopin in “The Storm” is romantic love, or the sexual attraction that is present between two significant characters in the short story. Chopin carries out her message on independence and freedom, particularly on the sexual aspect of a woman’s life, through the use of various techniques such as symbolization, a unique tone, an allegory, metaphors, and similes.
The most significant method Chopin utilizes to support her theme on independence over sexuality is symbolization. The fundamental symbol used in “The Storm” is the storm itself; it provides both Calixta and Alce the opportunity to engage in their short period of sexual time with each other. In other words, the storm symbolizes the freedom both of the characters have before they have to continue their ordinary, normal lives back again, or before the storm goes away. In contrast to most pieces of literature in which the rain symbolizes the washing away of sins, the rain in “The Storm” introduces the sin of adultery and immoral sexual desire. Overall, the storm represents the freedom both Calixta and Alce have to engage in adultery and romance while keeping it secretive. Another crucial symbol that has a meaning contradictive to its classical meaning is the whiteness used to describe multiple aspects during the situation between Calixta and Alce. The connotation used in this specific story is an inversion because whiteness is usually used to symbolize purity, not an impure action, such as adultery. In the midst of the sexual tension between the two, Kate Chopin uses the color white to describe several features of Calixta such as, “Her white neck”, “white throat and whiter breasts”, and “her passion…like a white flame”. Chopin does so in order to oppose the idea of adultery as an immoral idea. Although most of the symbols are included to show the short-term sexual relationship between Calixta and Alce, there is also a significant symbol to show the true, romantic, and long-term relationship between Bobint and Calixta: the can of shrimps. In the beginning, Chopin includes, “Bobint arose and going across to the counter purchased a can of shrimps…and sat stolidly holding the can of shrimps while the storm burst” to show that the can of shrimps represents the love between Bobint and Calixta and how he holds on to that love throughout the entire story, even when the storm is at its worst, or Calixta is engaging in adultery with Alce.
Another important aspect of the story that supports the idea of adultery being a moral action is the speaker’s encouraging tone in the story. By using textual evidence from “The Storm”, such as “He turned and smiled at her with a beaming face; and she lifted her pretty chin in the air and laughed aloud”, it is apparent that Kate Chopin is accepting and open-minded of the idea of having the freedom from engaging in secretive adultery. The fact that she concludes the story with both Calixta and Alce not regretting what happened between them during the storm strongly supports her perspective on what is moral and what is not.
Although the entire story consists of merely one allegory, the reference of Assumption has a very profound and significant meaning behind it. In the story, Assumption is the place in which Calixta and Alce had met before in which Alce “had kissed her and kissed and kissed her” but never fully experienced the sexual tension due to Calixta’s “immaculate” state. The place’s name itself, “Assumption”, prevented her from engaging in sexual intercourse because it is based off of the Assumption of Mary, which is Virgin Mary’s climb to heaven after her death. Since Virgin Mary’s is religiously associated with virginity or avoiding any sexual intercourse, Assumption was not the appropriate place for Calixta and Alce to be involved in sexual intercourse with each other. Additionally, Kate Chopin includes multiple metaphors and similes to further develop her perspective on the theme of sexual love. For example, her mouth is compared to “a fountain of delight”. This is used to show the positive feelings, especially exhilaration, Alce gets from kissing Calixta. After their sexual together finally came to an end, Chopin commenced to describe the world as “a palace of gems”. She does this to describe the environment filled with positive feelings, which ultimately gives a happy ending. Lastly, Chopin includes a very significant simile “her lips were as red and moist as pomegranate seed” to represent the color of love and the passion and affection between Calixta and Alce.
In conclusion, Chopin utilizes a variety of techniques, such as symbolization, an encouraging tone, an allegory, metaphors, and similes, multiple times throughout the story to convey her perspective on the morality of adulterous, sexual love and successfully does so.
Chopin’s Influence on Feminism
During Kate Chopin’s time period, women were legally bound to their husbands and the institution of marriage; they were also repressed sexually by the societal notions. The cultural constructs molded by religion and class during the late 19th Century posed restrictions on gender and sexuality. Moreover, the morality of the time shaped the way Chopin wrote. As a writer in this period, Kate Chopin had a significant impact on her patriarchal audience especially in The Storm, one of her most popular literary works. Moreover, this story challenges the notions of marriage and gender roles by addressing sexuality and female independence. In the story The Storm, Chopin boldly addresses the subject of female sexuality by depicting an explicit extramarital sexual affair with subsequent positive outcomes. It deals with the presence of an intense encounter that portrays a woman’s sexual desire in The Storm which is a feminist declaration about sexuality. Her works are known to take a brave stance in challenging traditional concepts in society to advocate for female liberation and feminism. Kate Chopin helped pave the way for women’s political, religious, and socio-economical rights through her countless stories.
Culture and society played a significant role in how women were treated during this century. In her attempt to nurture female autonomy, Chopin was criticized for her dressing, choosing to take unaccompanied walks while smoking and not doing her household chores (Tolentino 7-8). In this period women were not taught to survive without their husbands, the church also contributed in teaching women to be submissive to their husbands. Moreover, in The Storm, Kate Chopin challenges the traditional notions of gender roles and marriage regarding sexuality to advocate for female independence and sexual freedom. Women were only viewed as the man’s property and were limited from exploring their trues desires as the men. Chopin eliminates the sexist portrayal of submission and dominance between a man and a woman in her literary work. In the story, as Calixta’s family are taking shelter at a local store from a storm, Calixta and Alcée share a sexual encounter back at her home (Chopin). Chopin addresses the extramarital affair as a form of female sexual liberation which challenges the traditional expectations of a woman to be only subservient and passive. The social concepts constructed by the 19th-century culture and Catholicism that adultery and exploration of female desire and sexuality are wicked deeds criticized Chopin’s subject matters (Gibert 3). Nevertheless, Chopin defies traditional writing and refrains from exhorting about the sanctity of marriage or immodesty of Calixta’s deeds. Furthermore, Kate Chopin introduces the concept of feminism by advocating for female autonomy and exploring female sexuality; she also calls into question the foundation of marriage.
Women in this era expressed their desire to be equal as men and Chopin became a voice of feminism through her literary works. In a period when women felt bound to the institution of marriage and people began to question faith, Chopin explored these subjects in her literature. Chopin went against the repressive society and applied her life experiences to express feminist views (Tolentino 6). Women sought to be permitted to learn and be able to do the things that were only secluded for men; they spoke out against the biases in very many, inspired ways. Chopin’s notions made her the first female writer in America to accept sex with its profound ramifications as a valid subject for literature (Boriçi 13). In the time period women were considered the property of the man and were expected to adhere to traditional marriage concepts such as performing household duties, bearing children, and being sexually submissive to their husbands. The struggle for female independence during this time frame created a foundation for feminism in the twentieth century (Childs and Fowler 87). In a society that was repressive towards women in regards to marriage and sexuality, literature challenged the traditional notions. Moreover, The Storm showed how women were deprived and oppressed of many things during that century. We know that if this story or even The Awakening, were published in Kate Chopin’s life, she would be condemned. However, she did not publish The Storm during her lifetime, as it would not have been considered decent by societal ethics. Some of her other published works that explored female independence and sexuality faced heavy criticism during the period. Kate Chopin’s works are known to take a brave stance in challenging traditional concepts in society to advocate for female liberation and feminism. The Awakening and many of her stories had to wait seven decades for a sympathetic audience (Chopin pg. 120). Nevertheless, it was an instrumental feminist piece of literary work that needed to be reckoned for.
Lastly, Kate Chopin’s writings were shaped by the morality of her time. Chopin’s mere style is scandalous, but sexual desire and women’s rights were not thought about in that century. She went against the grain and wrote scandalous stories that were unapologetic. Some of Kate Chopin’s virtues include bravery, courage, and sincerity. She wrote from her heart and what she believed in. Kate would have never conformed to society’s standards and religious doctrines. Chopin’s literature is renowned for exploring female independence, sexuality and acted as a plea for feminism in the subsequent years. In her time period, societal norms and Catholicism confined women from exploring their sexuality and true desires. Moreover, history dictated that men were superior to women in this time frame. The societal confines on a woman’s independence aimed at maintaining morality in spite being suppressive to the women. Her literary works was able to lend a voice to the women who felt bound to the institution of marriage and help them rediscover their sexual freedom. Chopin’s literature such as The Storm expressed ideas that created the platform for the feminist movement in the twentieth century and onward. Nevertheless, Chopin disdained her society’s foundations and chose a more liberal stance in The Storm and other writings. Chopin’s, The Storm, uses liberalism and feminism as themes to question many faucets including marriage, society, and culture in a male-dominated era. Her numerous works of literature will always have a lasting imprint on women and the feminist movement.
Boriçi, Florinda. “Kate Chopin: Beyond Local Color to Feminism.” Journal of Educational and Social Research (2014): 310-313. Web. 09 November 2017.
Childs, Peter and Roger Fowler. The Routledge Dictionary of Literary Terms. New York: Routledge, 2006. Web. 09 November 2017.
Chopin, Kate. “The Storm.” 1898. American Literature. Web. 09 November 2017.
Gibert, Teresa. “The Role of Implicatures in Kate Chopin’s Louisiana Short Stories.” Journal of the Short Story in English 40 (2003): 1-12. Web. 09 November 2017.
Tolentino, Jasdomin. “Kate Chopin’s Life and Personal Influence.” Excellence in Research Awards. (2008): 1-15. Web. 09 November 2017.