Passion in Kate Chopin's The Storm


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Passion in Kate Chopin's The Storm
Necessary Mysteries

By Nicole Mohr


  • "The Storm" challenges commonly accepted views on marriage, sexuality and relationships.

  • The action in this story focuses on the central motif of a storm, which is literal and emotional.

  • Chopin's general attitude is that everyone needs an escape sometimes in relationships.

Kate Chopin’s “The Storm,” presents a view of passion as an emotion separate from love. It creates the feeling that passion is an intense, burning emotion, but different from love in that passion is more mysterious. It is not about intimacy, and it is not about an involved relationship for the purpose of living a happy life together. Passion is an ardent drive, an escape, the fulfillment of fantasy, and it is as mysterious as it is intense. 
“The Storm,” presents an affair between a married man and a married woman, whom had known each other in the past. The affair is portrayed as a necessary escape from reality, the fulfillment of lusts felt in years past. The storyline forms the feeling that the affair was necessary in order to maintain satisfaction in their own marriages. The author’s general attitude is that everyone needs an escape, in one way or another, at certain times in their relationships. Whether it is to simply take a breath of fresh air in solitude, to take a break from the redundancy of married life, or to satisfy lusts, the overall attitude toward the affair is that it is part of a bigger picture in which all parties, though obviously unspoken amongst themselves, need a short break. 

As the title suggests, the action of the story is focused around the central motif of a storm, both literally and emotionally. Although the rising storm is first mentioned in Part I of the story, it is not truly described in vivid detail until Part II. In this section, it describes the rise of the storm, and parallels the cycle of this incoming storm to the growing emotional tumult brewing between Alcèe and Calixta. First, it begins to grow to dark and she notices that the weather has grown oddly warm. This shows the signs of the oncoming cyclone, but also foreshadows the affair that is to come- dark, in its sinister nature, and warm building up to the heat of passion that will arise. Next, right as Monsieur Alcèe rides up to the house, “big rain drops began to fall.” The falling of the rain drops signifies the true beginning of the storm, and it occurs significantly at the same moment that Alcèe comes into the story. It is also mentions that they are “big rain drops.” While the story could have merely stated that it began to rain, the indication of their size builds up to the intense climax that will occur between Calixta and Alcèe in the midst of the storm. Next the “water beat in upon the boards in driving sheets” showing the intensifying of the storm outside, as well as the driving emotions building up as Monsieur Alcèe and Calixta move inside the house. The beating down of the rain is further described as a “force and clatter that threatened to break an entrance and deluge them there.” The word “deluge” can be used to describe a literal flood, but also is descriptive of anything overwhelming which, at this point, the emotions are just about to become, as Calixta’s beauty is described as if from Alcèe’s point of view. 

The action, both of the storm outside and of the brewing passion inside, heightens as it is no longer just warm, but now “stiflingly hot” as the “rain [is] coming down in sheets obscuring the view of far-off cabins and enveloping the distant wood in a gray mist.” The storm grows so strong that it creates the feeling of a wall, blocking the outside world. (Student changes this section to one about “isolation” ) The house then becomes an enchanted place as all other civilization is obscured from view and the house is enveloped “in a gray mist.” The image of thick mist creates a near magical setting and a feeling of enchantment follows. Truly, Alcèe and Calixta are in their own enchanted world, and then finally, like the incessant “playing of the lightning” they give into their desires for absolute pleasure.

The climactic sexual scene that ensues begins with “crashing torrents,” a powerful image of the strong current outside and the aggressive emotional downpour inside. Throughout this scene, the key word is “mystery,” mentioned numerous times. It suggests that this affair is incomprehensible, yet somewhat awe-inspiring in an enigmatic way. Calixta is portrayed as a “revelation in that dim, mysterious chamber,” giving the feeling that inside this enchanted chamber, separated wholly from the outside world, occurs a ritual of near divine nature, revealing truths of life itself. Although the affair is described with great passion, the primary color detailed in this particular scene is not one such as red, characteristic of intense passion, but white, characteristic of purity. In fact, white is actually the only color really depicted in this scene. She lies on a “white couch,” and is like a “creamy lily.” Her passion is described not as red hot, but as “a white flame.” The image of the “white flame” is a unique choice here. As science explains, the white part of a flame is actually the hottest. Yet, the color white also symbolizes purity, a strange way to describe the passion of an extramarital affair. It is most definitely intentional though, as her passion is described as a white flame because the narrator (which, in this circumstance, seems as though it were Alcee) feels that it is “without guile or trickery.” This is an ironic choice or words, seeing as how guile indicates deceit, and most would agree that an extramarital affair is certainly deceitful. Yet the general perspective of the story suggests that the affair is necessary and allows for all parties involved (Calixta and her husband, as well as Alcèe and his wife) to live happily satisfied. 
The five part structure of the story creates an appropriate, natural rise and fall in plot to match the rise and fall of emotions occurring. The brevity of the story matches the brevity of the storm and the affair, intensifying the emotions invoked by the story, as so much strong emotion is packed into such a concise story. The story can leave a reader with a somewhat uncomfortable feeling, as it presents the sense that the affair is not only justifiable, but actually increases the happiness of all characters involved. This is an uncomfortable feeling for readers, as even today’s very liberal society does not accept an affair outside of marriage as healthy and normal. “The Storm” seems to end as quickly as it starts, and the reader is left to ponder the events of the story. In this sense, it is undoubtedly a remarkably thought-provoking story, as it challenges commonly accepted views on marriage, sexuality and relationships.
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