Why did the story "The Storm" have to wait so long to find a sympathetic audience?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Kate Chopin's short story 'The Storm', although first written in 1898, was not published until 1969. There is a simple reason for this. Although tame by today's standards, the story's depiction of extra-marital sex would not have been acceptable for general audiences at the turn of the twentieth century; Chopin herself was well aware of this.

As well as providing a fairly intimate lovemaking scene, the story appears to have a relaxed attitude towards adultery. The lovers, Alcee and Calixta, who give way to their passion during a great storm, show no guilt whatsoever. On the contrary, they are blissfully happy and carry this joy back with them to their respective marriages. Calixta appears truly physically satisfied for the first time and welcomes her husband and son back from a trip; Alcee, whose wife Clarisse is away, suggests that she stay away longer. Clarisse is quite pleased with this suggestion, as she too wants to be free from conjugal duties for a while:

And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days.

Clarisse, then, can recover some sense of the freedom she had 'in her maiden days,' before her marriage. In short, Alcee and Calixta's night together seems to benefit everyone.

 In this story, the act of sex between genuine lovers is shown to be a liberating force and nothing to be ashamed about, and the storm which accompanies their lovemaking can be readily seen as a symbol of their passion - natural, intense, and ultimately purifying. The story also implies that an adulterous episode need not adversely affect a marriage. This apparent condoning of extra-marital sex would have been much too shocking for most readers at the end of the nineteenth century.  

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