Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The storm is the story’s central metaphor, representing the passion of Calixta and Alcée. By linking the two, Chopin indicates that the lovers’ feelings are natural and therefore not subject to moral censure. She reinforces this idea through other imagery drawn from nature, likening Alcée to the sun and Calixta to a lily and a pomegranate. Not only do these images come from nature, but they also derive from the biblical book The Song of Songs, giving a kind of religious sanction to the lovers’ union.
The storm is not only natural but also powerful, like the passions it symbolizes. While Calixta and Alcée make love, the thunder crashes and the elements roar; the passing of the storm indicates their physical exhaustion. While these passions, like the storm, are strong, they are not destructive. The storm does little damage, and when it passes the sun emerges, “turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems.” The rain leaves the world a happier and more beautiful place, just as the lovers part with joy in their hearts. Alcée leaves with a smile, and Calixta answers him with laughter.
Chopin uses language to indicate that this joy derives from the lovers’ equality. He is like the sun and she is a “white flame.” She cushions but also clasps him, being both active and passive. His heart beats “like a hammer upon her” while she “strokes his shoulders.” They “swoon together at the very borderland of life’s mystery.” In this union of true love there is neither master nor mastered—simply two partners who share desire and fulfillment. For Chopin, that is the only proper relationship between the sexes, the only one likely to bring happiness within marriage, or outside it.
Bibliography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Beer, Janet. Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Studies in Short Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.
Beer, Janet, and Elizabeth Nolan, eds. Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Bonner, Thomas, Jr. The Kate Chopin Companion. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.
Boren, Lynda S., and Sara de Saussure Davis, eds. Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.
Koloski, Bernard. Kate Chopin: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1996.
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Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin. Boston: Twayne, 1985.
Stein, Allen F. Women and Autonomy in Kate Chopin’s Short Fiction. New York: Peter Lang, 2005.
Taylor, Helen. Gender, Race, and Religion in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.
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Toth, Emily. Unveiling Kate Chopin. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999.