Analysis of Kate Chopin’s The Storm





Analysis of Kate Chopin’s The Storm


The Storm is an 1898 short story by Kate Chopin in which she describes a sexual encounter that two lovers have in the middle of a storm in Louisiana. The story is a sequel to another one of Chopin’s short stories, At the Cadian Ball. In The Storm, Chopin narrates how Calixta and Alcee, the two lovers from At the Cadian Ball, have a chance sexual encounter after a storm traps them both in Calixta’s house while her husband and son are away. The story was unique for its time because it covered female sexuality in a way that no other writer had ever done before. Indeed, Kate Chopin was unwilling to submit the story for publishing because she rightly felt that none of the respectable publications of the time would be willing to print it. Accordingly, the story remained in Chopin’s manuscripts and journals until 1969 when it was finally published. Kate Chopin’s The Storm is a unique piece of work because of the way that it addresses female sexuality in an open and provocative manner while crossing the moral and cultural lines of the time when she wrote it.

Plot Summary

The story starts with Calixta’s husband and son, Bobinot and Bibi being trapped in a store because of the fast approaching violent storm. Back at home, Calixta prepares for the storm by going outside to fetch her drying laundry. While she is engaged in this task, Alcee, her former lover, rides up on his horse and begins to help her. The approaching storm forces Alcee to take shelter in Calixta’s home. Initially, Calixta and Alcee do not take note of each other as they wait out the storm. The situation changes when a lightning bolt strikes a tree close to the house and startles Calixta. Alcee instinctively holds the frightened Calixta and this rekindles their romance. As time passes, the passion between the two intensifies and they end up having an impromptu sexual encounter. Their encounter ends at the same time as the storm and Alcee leaves immediately. When Bobinot and Bibi return home, Calixta embraces them happily and their lives move on as if the encounter never happened.

Chopin’s Exploration of Sexuality in The Storm

The key theme in Chopin’s The Storm is female sexuality. In the story, Chopin explores sexuality, particularly from a female point of view. The story covers Calixta’s sexual encounter with Alcee but the focus of the descriptions is on Calixta’s emotions and feelings. This is evident in some of the statements through which Chopin describes the encounter. While narrating the encounter, Chopin explains how Calixta’s “mouth was a fountain of delight” (145). These vivid descriptions of Calixta’s sexual encounter not only place the reader in the moment but also help him or her understand what she felt like throughout the encounter. Indeed, the story is bound to have been more interesting and captivating for Chopin’s female audiences because they could relate to the sensations and feelings that Calixta experienced in the tale.

That Chopin’s story is focused on the sexual encounter is a fact made obvious by the metaphorical and literal references to the event. In the story, Chopin describes the sexual encounter openly and directly, making it possible for the reader to understand everything that transpired between Alcee and Calixta. This encounter is easier for the reader to understand if he or she has read the story’s prequel, At the Cadian Ball. However, despite referring to the encounter explicitly, Chopin also uses the storm to refer to the affair metaphorically (Tolentino 11). Firstly, the approaching storm temporarily keeps Calixta away from her husband and son. During the duration of the storm, Calixta is like an unmarried woman. Similarly, Calixta’s brief affair with Alcee made her feel like an unmarried woman for a short period. The storm is also similar to the affair between Calixta and Alcee because it lasts for only a short period. Interestingly, the sexual encounter between the two lovers ends at the same time as the storm. Lastly, Calixta’s emotional state seems to mirror the weather conditions. As soon as the storm starts, Calixta is nervous and unsettled because she does not know where her husband is. As her encounter with Alcee progresses, the storm intensifies and becomes violent. As soon as their affair ends, Calixta feels happy and relieved. Similarly, the storm gives way to a sunny sky that mirrors Calixta’s delight.

One of the reasons why Chopin’s approach to female sexuality is unconventional and provocative is the fact that she portrays it as an issue that can liberate women. Chopin portrayed Calixta’s affair with Alcee as a liberating and emancipating experience (Ley 146). This is evident in the relief and joy that Calixta feels after the affair. Normally, the reader would have expected Calixta to feel guilty and remorseful, instead she was pleased with the experience that she had had with Alcee. The liberation that Calixta derived from the affair is made more apparent by the warmth and happiness with which she greets Bobinot when he returns. Her reaction to his return shows that she still loves him and that the affair was not the result of an unhappy marriage. Instead, the affair was an experience through which Calixta felt emancipated from the constraints of marriage. Resultantly, the experience had a refreshing effect on her, as it seemed to have provided her with a much-needed break from her bond to Bobinot. Chopin also goes a step further and shows that women can be sexually independent of their husbands and men in general. This is evident through the affair that Calixta and Alcee have. In the encounter, Calixta understands her sexuality and knows that she desires Alcee even though she is married to Bobinot. Accordingly, she is not sexually dependent on her husband. The ending of the story shows how women can be sexually independent of men through the letter that Alcee sends to his wife. In the letter, Alcee tells his wife to take as long as she wants on her trip. His wife is happy when she receives the letter, not because she is not happy with Alcee but because she desires to be alone for some time and have a break away from their married life. These desires that Alcee’s wife has show that women do not always need a man in their life, a perception that was common at the time and is still relatively popular today.

Chopin’s story is unique because the open and vivid exploration of female sexuality broke the social boundaries of the period in which she lived. Though the story was first published in 1969, Chopin wrote it in 1898, a time when America and Europe were still conservative in nature. During the late nineteenth century, it was still unconventional for women to discuss their sexual views openly. Carroll explains that the sexuality of women was a taboo topic in most of the world until the twentieth century (20). At the time, the conditions that women faced in marriage were akin to sexual slavery as many of the men treated their wives like possessions. Alternatively, the Western society viewed male sexuality as a normal and acceptable issue (Carroll 20). Placed within this context, Chopin’s The Storm appears to break the boundaries that society had set for women in various ways. Firstly, Chopin provided vivid descriptions of the emotions and sensations that Calixta experienced in the encounter. Additionally, Chopin portrayed sexuality as an issue that was liberating for women, a perspective that differed with popular perceptions of the time.


Kate Chopin’s The Storm was groundbreaking because of the way that it crossed the lines set by society concerning marriage and the sexuality of women. In the story, Chopin describes a liberating affair between two married lovers that ends with satisfaction and happiness, as opposed to guilt and remorse as the reader would expect. The key theme in Chopin’s story was female sexuality, an issue that she referred to both explicitly and metaphorically. Chopin’s view of female sexuality in her story differed from the perceptions of the time in various ways. Firstly, Chopin was willing to describe the sexual emotions and desires that women go through, a topic that was taboo during the 19th century. Additionally, Chopin portrayed the affair, and sexuality as a whole, as an experience that was liberating and emancipating for the characters. These issues made The Storm a riveting and captivating read, particularly for women, unlike many other publications of the time.


Works Cited:

Carroll, Jannell L. Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

Chopin, Kate. “The Storm.” Fiction: Reading, Reacting and Writing. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994. 143-146.Print.

Ley, David J. Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them. Plymouth: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2009. Print.

Tolentino, Jasdomin. Kate Chopin’s Life and Personal Influence. Pace. Pace University, 2008. Web. 31 July 2014.


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