The passionate love affair depicted in Kate Chopin’s “The Storm” could be seen has quite tame when compared to the romantic novels of today, but a sexual interlude and affair of a married woman would have been very brazen when it was written in 1898. Chopin’s short story challenged societies expectations and beliefs when it came to women, sex, and marriage. The female characters in “The Storm” don’t necessarily conform to those of the traditional 19th century woman when it comes to the themes of love, passion, marriage, freedom, and sexual desire.
In the 19th century girls were raised and with the expectation of becoming a wife, mother, and housekeeper. Society believed that a woman’s place was in the home, and they had a duty to care for the children, house, and their husband, including his sexual needs. During the 19th century it was a common understanding that women were purely domestic beings, and that unlike men they had no sexual feelings or desires (www2.ivdd.edu). One of the main theme’s that is seen in Kate Chopin’s writing, including “The Storm,” is a women rebelling against societies view of women as unisexual creatures, with no desire or passion for sex. In “The Storm” it is the character Calixta that exemplifies a woman who is in touch with her sexuality, and uninhibited sexual desires.
When the story begins Calxtia’s husband and son are seeking shelter in a local store from a storm. Calixta is home alone and working on household chores unaware of the approaching storm, she caught by surprise. While rushing around trying to pick up and prepare the house for the storm her former love interest, Alcee shows up and seeks shelter from the storm. As the storm gathers strength Alcee hugs Calxita who is in a fearful state. The embrace seems to awaken a sexual tension and passion between the two of them. Calxtia’s sexual desires are obvious, “The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame penetrated and found response in depths of his won sensuous nature that had never yet been reached” (Chopin,281).
This was not a planned meeting for an love affair but two people spontaneously acting on their sexual passions and desires for each other. It also shows that man was not only one who had a sexual desire to fulfill, but that women too crave sex. The love scene between Calixta and Alcee is one that is full of passion and sexual explicated for the time. Per Seyersted, a Kate Chopin biographer described the sex in the story has “a force as strong, inevitable, and natural as the Louisiana storm which ignites it” (www.KateChopin.org). It is also interesting that Kate Chopin does not touch on any of the moral issues of sex, or an extramarital love affair. Per Seyersed also comments on “The Storm” in that it “covers only one day and one storm and does not exclude the possibility of later misery. The emphasis is on the momentary joy of the amoral cosmic force”(www.KateChopin.org).
She focuses on the moment, and sex as being something beautiful, natural, and simply the pure passion between two individuals. After the storm passes Alcee leaves, and Calxtia is relived when her husband and son arrive home safe. There is no awkwardness in their interactions. It is also clear that Calxita cares for and loves her husband very much. For the most part she is content in their marriage, but at the same time as a woman she still desires passion and freedom. The other female character in “The Storm” is Clarisse, who is Alcee’s wife. Clarisse also rebels against her expected role of a woman in the 19th century but in a different way than Calixta.
After Alcee’s affair with Calixta he writes a letter to his wife who is in Biloxi and tells her that he is doing fine, and that she can stay another month if she wants. When Clarisse receives his letter she is pleased. She has enjoyed herself while being away, and spending time with old friends. It appears that Clarisse is grateful for a break from her marital duties and doesn’t mind staying way a little longer, “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 that she more than willing to forego for a while” (Chopin, 282). Clarisse also desires freedom and is enjoying her freedom in Biloxi from her married life.
While much like Calixta there is a sense that Clarisse loves her husband but that there is something missing, a lack of passion when it comes to their sex life. Kate Chopin’s “The Storm” pushed beyond what society was comfortable with and ready to accept when it came to female sexuality. Chopin was not afraid to challenge what society believed. Her female characters like Calixta gave woman a sexual voice. Calixta is a woman full of sexual desire, passion, and who gave in to her sexual urges. Chopin also did not criticize or even comment on the moral issues, but presented the love affair with the sex has simple being a pure and naturally act. In terms of marriage, Calixta and Clarisse didn’t necessarily resist against the institution of marriage but objected to the conventional roles that society confined women in marriage too. Due to its subject matter and sexual content being too explicated for the time, Kate Chopin’s “ The Storm” would not be published in her lifetime. A lot has changed for women since Chopin wrote “The Storm” and thankfully those include societies views on women, marriage, and their sexuality.
Chopin, Kate. “The Storm.” Literature: Craft and Voice. Eds. Nicholas Delnamco & Alan Cheuse. 2nd ed. NY: McGraw-Hill, 2012. 279-282. Print.
Koloski, Bernard. “Kate Chopin “The Storm”.” The Storm, Kate Chopin, characters, setting, questions. Kate Chopin International Society , 1 July 2014. Web. 27 July 2014. .
Radek, KImberly. “Women in the Nineteenth Century.” Women in the Nineteenth Century. N.p., 1 Jan. 2001. Web. 27 July 2014. .