Kate Chopin is an important contributor to the development of the American literature. The themes and ideas, which the author has used in her works, aim at analyzing the main social processes. She has also investigated the main driving forces, which are crucial in the process of development of an individual personality.
Disclosure of The Topic of Conjugal Relationships in a Novel “The Storm”
One of the most famous short stories composed by the writer is a novel “The Storm”. It was written in 1898 and concentrated on the topic of sexuality and conjugal relationships. The choice of the themes, not characteristic to the period in which Kate Chopin was creating her works, developed the prototype of the feministic themes in literature.
The title of the story establishes the symbol of it - the storm. The main heroes of the narration are Calixta and Alcee – ex-lovers who have not met with each other for five years. The story begins with the description of Calixta’s husband and son. Bobinot and Bibi are delayed during their way home because of the storm. At the same time, the author depicts Calixta who is sewing at home. She is deeply emerged into her work and does not pay attention to the sudden changes in weather. Suddenly she notices the room becoming gloomier and darker and starts to close the doors and windows. By doing this, Calixta discerns Alcee standing at the gate. She invites him into the house.
The ferocious storm suddenly blows up, as well as heroes’ passionate feelings towards each other. The depiction of the storm symbolizes the adultery which two of them willingly commit. The actions of the heroes are emphasized by the flashes of the thunder. “The rain was coming down in sheets obscuring the view of far-off cabins and enveloping the distant wood in a gray mist. The playing of the lightning was incessant.” (Chopin) However, the author does not depict this sexual intercourse as a blunder. The storm does not signify betrayal, but serves as the powerful symbol of passion – a felling which both of the heroes do not experience in their marriages any more. “When he touched her breaths they gave themselves up in quivering ecstasy, inviting his lips. Her mouth was a fountain of delight. And when he possessed her, they seemed to swoon together at the very borderland of life’s mystery.”
Symbolism in a Novel “The Storm”
The storm, which has just finished, accentuates Calixta’s and Alicee’s inner states of happiness and depicts the world around the main heroes as more colorful and flamboyant. “The rain was over, and the sun was turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems.” The author depicts pure happiness which both, Valixta and Alcee are filled with after the adultery. They do not feel guilty and behave in a usual way – Alcee returns back home and writes an affectionate letter to his wife, Calixta meets her son and husband. However, both of them undergo the considerable changes inside: they enjoy their lives and are grateful to each other. As a consequence, the reader may come to a conclusion, that the author uses storm with an intention to describe the complete happiness, which the heroes enjoy after the intercourse. Moreover, the idea may be proved by the last quotation used in the text: “So the storm passed and everyone was happy.”
Despite the main heroes do not repent in the action they has performed, the storm also serves as a powerful symbol of sin. In implementing this idea, Kate Chopin uses some tokens. One of them is the lightning. It damages the Chinaberry tree, which has the connection to the Catholic religious tradition. “A bolt struck a tall chinaberry tree at the edge of the field.” (Chopin) As the result, the author makes a connection to the Catholic religious convictions, according to which adultery is a sin. It is forgivable, only if a person repents and confirms the mistakes, which were made. However, the main characters of the story under discussion do not feel sorry for their actions. In such a manner Kate Chopin puts under a question general religious postulates.
The explicit usage of the white color in the text proves the idea too: “white sacque”, “a white monumental bed”, “white throat and her whiter breasts”. In addition to the aforementioned examples, passion - the key felling of the story is described as a “white flame” (Chopin). The frequent applying of the following color is used as a symbol of the genuine feelings and emotions. In the religious content, the following color is associated with Virgin Mary. That is why the vivid usage of white in the text emphasizes its connection to the religious motives, which are implied in the story. Moreover, the author compares Calixta’s body to the “creamy lily” (Chopin). Lily is considered to be Saint Mary’s symbol. In addition to the aforementioned insertions, there is one more reference to religion. Alcee mentions Assumption – the city where the lovers’ intense passion aroused five years ago. However, from the religious point of view, Assumption is the place where the ascension of Virgin Mary has happened.
“The Storm” is an absorbing and thought-provoking story. Kate Chopin implied in the following work her views on marriage and passion. The storm in the story is a symbol of the ardent feelings. Moreover, it is used in order to contrast the conjugal life deprived of passion and a few minutes full of it. The accurate choice of the symbol and the main idea of the story produce a convincing effect on the reader.
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I agree with copelmat that the final line of the story would make an excellent title. That final line is extremely ambiguous and perhaps even ironic, and so that title would give you the chance to take your paper in several possible directions. Indeed, that title would allow you to make the argument -- already made by Lawrence Berkove, among others -- that the story is not at all an endorsement of adultery but is in fact an ironic condemnation of the adulterous affair.
If you did want to argue that the story in some ways affirms the affair, here is another phrase from the text that might make a good main title (with an explanatory subtitle: "the very borderland of life's mystery." I could imagine a paper titled this way: "The Very Borderland of Life's Mystery: Sex and Awakening in Kate Chopin's 'The Storm.'" Even as I type that title, however, I find it a bit silly, because I personally think that Chopin mocks the affair as much as she admires it (if she admires it at all). The whole penultimate paragraph suggests that Chopin is writing in a very ironic mode:
As for Clarisse, she was charmed upon receiving her husband's letter. She and the babies were doing well. The society was agreeable; many of her old friends and acquaintances were at the bay. And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days. Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while.