Study Guide

The Storm

by Kate Chopin

The Storm Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

While Bobinôt and his son, Bibi, are shopping at Friedheimer’s store, the air becomes still. Dark clouds roll in from the west, and thunder rumbles in the distance. Father and son decide to wait inside until the storm passes instead of trying to reach home. When Bibi suggests that Calixta may be frightened to be alone, Bobinôt reassures him that she will be all right.

The approaching storm does not, in fact, worry her. She merely closes the doors and windows and then goes to gather the clothes hanging outside. As she steps onto the porch, she sees Alcée Laballière ride through the gate to seek shelter from the rain.

From “At the ’Cadian Ball,” to which “The Storm” is a sequel, the reader knows that six years earlier Calixta and Alcée had gone to Assumption together in a fit of passion, and the following year they were about to have another romantic rendezvous in New Orleans when Clarisse intervened. In love with Alcée and suspecting his intentions, Clarisse had proposed marriage. He agreed, and Calixta had then yielded to Bobinôt’s suit.

Despite the passage of time and their marriages, Calixta and Alcée’s passion for each other has not abated. As they stand at a window, lightning strikes a chinaberry tree. Calixta, startled, staggers backward into Alcée’s arms; this physical contact arouses “all the old-time infatuation and desire for her flesh.” Alcée asks, “Do you remember—in Assumption, Calixta?” She does indeed. There they had kissed repeatedly; now, as the storm rages, they make passionate love. When the storm subsides, they know that they must separate, at least temporarily.

Bobinôt and Bibi walk home, pausing at the well outside to clean themselves as well as they can before entering the house. Calixta is a fastidious housekeeper, and they fear the reception they will receive after trudging home in the mud. Bobinôt is ready with apologies and explanations, but he needs none. Calixta is overjoyed to see her family and delighted with the can of shrimps that Bobinôt has brought her.

Alcée is as happy as Calixta. His wife has gone to Biloxi, Mississippi, for a vacation, and he writes her “a loving letter, full of tender solicitude” that night, telling her to stay as long as she wants. He says that he misses her, but he puts her pleasure above his own.

Clarisse is happy, too, when she receives the letter. She loves her husband, but the vacation is her first taste of freedom since her marriage. She intends to accept Alcée’s offer to stay in Biloxi longer before returning home.

The Storm Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Written only six months after the publication of The Awakening, “The Storm” continues Chopin’s confrontation with the theme of women’s sexuality and the complexities of the married state. In this five-part short story, the narrative structure allows Chopin to present varying perspectives on a single situation as a means of suggesting that “reality” is, at best, relative. The situation is simple enough: Calixta’s husband, Bobinôt, and son, Bibi, are in town when a storm hits. Alone at home, Calixta is about to shut the windows and doors against the rain when her former lover, Alcée Laballière, rides into the yard seeking shelter. While the storm rages, Calixta and Alcée renew their passionate feelings for each other; their desire finally leads them into having sex. When the storm abates, Alcée departs, and Calixta welcomes her family back home. The story concludes, “So the storm passed and every one was happy.”

Like all of Chopin’s best fiction, “The Storm” does not offer pat moral truisms; indeed, the shocking element of this story’s conclusion is that the retribution one might expect for the act of adultery never comes. In section 2, the crucial love scene is played out against ironic allusions to Christian symbolism: the Assumption, an immaculate dove, a lily, and the passion. Chopin offers a moral tale in which a woman’s sexual experience is not condemned but celebrated and in which she uses that experience not to abandon her family but to accept them with a renewed sense of commitment. Unlike The Awakening, “The Storm” allows a woman to gain personal fulfillment and to remain happily married. As in most naturalistic fiction, morality—like reality—is relative.