In Kate Chopin's "The Storm," how does the setting serve to reinforce the plot?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kate Chopin's "The Storm" is a sequel to "At the 'Cadian Ball" in which Calixta and Alcee had gone to Assumption in another storm of passion, having planned another meeting in New Orleans for the following year, but Alcee's wife Clarisse intervened by arranging for Alcee to marry her.

In the aftermath of their intensely passionate relationship, Calixta has also married.  However, with her husband and son waiting at Friedheimer's store for the turbulence to end before returning home, Alcee appears at Calixta's house seeking shelter. When a bolt of lightning strikes the ever-symbolic chinaberry tree, their passion for one another is reignited.  In this naturalistic story in which the characters behave in accord with their natural, animalistic drives and impulses, the parallels between the setting of the storm and the emotions of the characters becomes apparent.

The pomegranate color of her lips and her dove-like appearance awaken the sensuous nature of Alcee,

The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached.

In a maelstrom of sexual desire, Calixta and Alcee satisfy their natural impulses that wax and wane with the storm.  And, once the storm has abated, so, too, does their passion:

The growl of the thunder was distant and passing away. The rain beat softly upon the shingles, inviting them to drowsiness and sleep. But they dared not yield.

Alcee returns home, and Calixta cheerfully welcomes her son and husband; further, having had her emotions spent in the storm, the fastitidious housekeeper does not scold her family for being muddy. Similarly, having his desires and emotions released in the passionate storm of his lovemaking, Alcee writes to his wife, encouraging her to enjoy herself and remain away longer.  As a storm often benefits nature, so, too, the "storm" of passion serve to ease both Alcee and Calixta. For, with their liberating experience during the storm, the man and woman are provided a liberty that saves them from the confinement and tensions of their marriages. Certainly, the storm is a metaphor for the importance of natural releases of emotion that provide people the freedom they need as creatures of the natural order.