In "The Storm" and "At the 'Cadian Ball" how do class codes affect interaction among characters?
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With "At the 'Cadian Ball" considered as a prequel to "The Storm," the relationships among the characters certainly assumes greater meaning. Alcee Laballiere is a Creole planter whose rice crop is wiped out by a cyclone, but afterwards, he decides to attend an Acadian ball instead of bemoaning his terrible loss. Clarisee, the goddaughter of his mother, does not attend because she, too, is Creole; that is, like Alcee, she is from a wealthier and higher social class. While it is acceptable for the men to attend, the Creole women do not as the ball is an occasion for young Acadian women--women who are emigrants forced out of Canada when the British gained rule of New France--to find suitors.
When Alcee attends this Acadian ball, he seeks out Calixta, a beautiful Acadian rumored to have Spanish blood. In fact, he is in the act of kissing her when Clarisee appears, saying that he is urgently needed. He immediately follows her out, without turning to Calixta until Clarisee urges him to say good-bye.
Then, in the story, "The Storm," it becomes obvious that Alcee has not been physically satisfied in his marriage to Clarisee after he seeks shelter from a severe storm. Since the wind of the cyclone is too strong for him to remain on her gallery, Calixta invites him inside. With the increasing wind, she becomes frightened and
Calixta put her hands to her eyes, and with a cry, staggered backward. Alcée's arm encircled her, and for an instant he drew her close and spasmodically to him.
Clearly, there is still the physical attraction that Alcee has felt at the 'Cadian Ball as well as a longing in Calixta. Only this time, with the turbulent weather as their excuse for their own raging passion, the man and woman consummate their physical desire for each other despite their class differences. Certainly, the expression of their lust gains in excitement because of the forbiddenness of it, both morally and socially.
There is a sense in which class codes are yet another barrier that is transgressed in these two short stories, in addition to the challenge that they represent to the institution of marriage and sexual codes of practice. If we examine "The Storm," for example, we can see that Alcee is now in a higher social sphere than Calixta, both indicated through the manner in which they speak and also the way in which Calixta pays deference to Alcee, greeting him with the title of "Monsieur." Calixta's dialect in particular indicates her lower social status, whereas Alcee's use of Standard English clearly marks him as an educated and wealthy individual. References, too, to his wife spending time at the "bay" with "society" clearly show the different social spheres that these two characters inhabit:
The society was agreeable; many of her old friends and acquaintances were at the bay.
The coming together and sexual union of Alcee and Calixta is therefore meant to shock just as much because of the social norms that are transgressed as well as the sexual norms. The storm allows Alcee and Calixta a hidden opportunity to put aside their social stations and to give free rein to their sexual impulses. If we look at how Alcee and Calixta interact at the beginning of the story, Calixta pays deference to Alcee until they are overcome by their mutual longing. This of course parallels the intensity of the storm. There is a sense in which the storm shakes up the established order of life and disrupts the pecking order of the heirarchical existence of these characters, so that Alcee and Calixta, who are divided by so many different factors, can meet sexually as equals.
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