How is gender defined in Kate Chopin's "The Storm"?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kate Chopin uses the construct of a storm as an extended metaphor to define gender roles in her short story "The Storm."  The storm in this story is a violent torrent of wind and rain, unleashed by mother nature, becoming the perfect metaphor for feminine sexuality. 

In Chopin's story, the nuclear family has become separated, isolating the mother, Calixta, at home as she minds the house and tends to her sewing. The son and father are at the local general store; so from the onset of the story, Chopin uses the location of the family members to define their gender--women belong at home, and men should be out 'hunting and forraging' to provide for the family.  At least, this perception is the societal norm; the storm upsets this fragile illusion.

"The Storm" is a story about sexual tension. Chopin characterizes Calixta as a bold, unrestrained, fiery woman.  Clearly, her gender role as the stay-at-home mom has not satisfied her. As the storm gathers momentum, Calixta frets even more about the rest of her family, but only Alcée Laballière provides her with the release she craves. 

The ending of the story, "So the storm passed and everybody was happy," suggests that Calixta was frustrated about not being able to be her true, unrestrained self in her marriage, and being with Alcée allowed her to be a freer version of herself. The storm challenged the conservative gender roles of her time period in a powerful, physical way. And even though it was only for a brief span of time, Calixta returns to her domestic role feeling completely satisfied.