This review is at the advanced level – C1.2 level – and it is more similar to a university paper than to the everyday reviews we require learners to write in EOI Certificate Writing Tests.
“The Storm” was written by Kate Chopin in 1898, but it was one of her unpublished stories. It firstly appeared in Per Seyersted’s The Complete Works of Kate Chopin in 1969 in Louisiana State.
This short story is divided into five sections. The author starts setting the scene in a grocery store, where Bibi and Bobinot, Calixta’s son and husband, are buying a can of shrimps for dinner. They see a storm approaching, so they decide to stay in the store until it passes.
Meanwhile Calixta, the mother and wife, is home alone sewing cotton sheets. When she decides to collect their clothes hanging outside, her former lover Alcée is riding towards the house. When he gets there, the rain starts falling heavily so she invites him to go in.
Inside, the house description emphasizes the whiteness surrounding her. At the beginning, she is concerned about her family being outside in the rain, but after a while a lightning strikes a tree and this triggers a kind of uncertainty and fear that releases their old passion, which then burns both lovers. The lover depicts her body vividly, remarking her whiteness. They become a nurturing flame. The rain outside is as intense as their mutual love and attraction.
Once it is all over, Alcée departs agreeing not to see her again. Her marriage will remain intact. Nobody will ever know what has happened. They fulfill and close a story that happened five years earlier.
Later on, Bibi and Bobinot return home. She is really pleased to see them, and they have dinner happily as if nothing had happened. The husband is not told off for not wiping the mud off his boots, so he is happy, too. On his part, Alcée writes his wife a letter asking her to stay away longer if she wishes to. She replies positively, and prolongs her stay with her children because for once in her life she is enjoying herself as when she was a young woman.
For Victorian women sexuality was not their own. They were guardians of morality, unlike men. Only the New Women Movement understood women needed to take control over their own bodies to change their position from sexual objects to sexual subjects, thus fulfilling their own sexual desires, power and pleasure.
The literature of the time revealed some heroines who fought their constraints. The adulterous relationships that women read about in novels seemed like a fantastic way to overturn convention. It was a way of escaping their dull lives, but few dared cheat on their husbands. For this reason, it is not hard to understand why “The Storm” was not published until the twentieth century. The nature of the story’s content and society’s unwillingness to accept this side of women kept it unpublished. Critics just considered it to be amoral. In contrast, the closing statement in the story that the storm passed and all were happy is a clear indicator that the writer doesn’t regard it as an evil act which has to be avoided.
Adultery is a topic widely used in Chopin’s short stories, such as “The Awakening” and “The Dream of an Hour” (the story of an hour). “The Storm” is a sexual exploration of the temptations of adultery and the fulfillment of women’s desires. As the title promises, the story quickly descends into a steamy exploration of the passions marriage may not fulfill. As we mentioned before, Chopin’s society was unwilling to accept this new side of women. Women’s sexuality was not directly and publicly addressed and discussed in 1898. However, Chopin uses the weather to unleash Calixta’s sexuality. As the storm increases in intensity, so does the passion of the two lovers. The adulterers’ sexual encounter ends at the same time as the storm.
I really enjoyed how Chopin selects certain words to describe how this sexual tension is building up, for instance, “The rain beats the roof with a force that threatens to break an entrance and deluge them there”, “its close shutters look dim and mysterious”, preparing for what is coming next. “[T]he playing of the lightning was incessant”, “A bolt strikes, filling the air with a blinding glare and the crash invades them”, “the contact of her palpitating body arouses all the old-time infatuation and desire for the flesh”.
Chopin’s description after their sexual tension is released: “After the rain stopped, the sun was turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems”. It only glisten until the rain dries up, just like their ephemeral encounter – brief but beautiful. Chopin’s use of images is rich in this passage.
The use of images of purity in the second section is also very interesting. “Calixta unbuttons her white blouse at the neck”, “the white monumental bed”, “her breasts are whiter”, “she is as white as the couch she lays on”. Also, their passion is described as a “white flame”. Five years before, he had kissed her in Assumption. Somehow, it seems Chopin treats Calixta as if she was the Virgin Mary. This must have been a complete shock for the editor at the time of reading it. No surprise it was not published.
In conclusion, in “The Storm” Chopin unravels a storm of emotions, connecting the weather with their characters’ inner passions. Her views on sex and marriage are clearly depicted in the plot. She is asserting women’s independence by mirroring us in Calixta, who is testing the boundaries of sexuality and marriage.
Some have criticized her by saying she is sending a misleading message to women and society in general. I really love her message and her use of subtle details for making us explore the protagonists’ feelings and passions. No doubt, I consider her one of the greatest female writers of all times!