In the story "The Storm" by Kate Chopin, explain how the setting causes the plot to happen, forces the characters to discover and reveal hidden aspects of themselves, and influences the theme.
The storm provides the reason for Bobinôt's not returning home, just as it allows for Alcée's stopping for shelter. In its charged energy, the storm also acts as a catalyst for the maelstrom of emotions that arise in Calixta and Alcée.
Kate Chopin's short story "The Storm" is a sequel to a story entitled "At the 'Cadian Ball." In this story, Alcée Laballière, a Creole planter, loses a crop of rice when a cyclone rips through his nine hundred acres on which he has toiled for months. One night, in his frustration, he secretly leaves home and attends a Cajun ball where Acadian girls seek their future husbands. At this ball, Alcée sees Calixta, a beautiful Cajun from a lower social class. They are strongly attracted to each other. However, their class differences forbid their marriage, and Alcée is not willing to risk his class standing or potentially bring shame to his family by having a relationship with her. Calixta then settles for Bobinôt, who is also Cajun.
When Alcée rides up to Calixta's house, she sees him for the first time since the ball five years ago. Then, as a particularly brilliant flash of lightning strikes a chinaberry tree at the edge of Bobinôt's field, Calixta is so frightened that she covers her eyes, cries out in fear, and staggers backward. Alcée catches her, and she cries out in her anxiety about the safety of her little son.
Alcée clasped her shoulders and looked into her face. The contact of her warm, palpitating body when he unthinkingly had drawn her into his arms, had aroused all the old-time infautation and desire for her flesh.
The storm has acted as a catalyst, igniting their old passion for one another. It also creates a milieu charged with electricity which, along with the elements of wind and rain, transforms the appearance of the environment. Alone with each other after all these years in a disguised setting that removes them from their usual thoughts, Alcée and Calixta feel this charged air between themselves; instantly, their old passion is rekindled. The fire of this passion, like the fire of the strike of lightning, ignites all the old feelings that they have tried to bury. Under the cover of a turbulent environment that seems to be in sympathy with them, Calixta and Alcée surrender to their passion for one another.
The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame which penetrated and found response in the depth of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached.
When the storm is over, Alcée rides away, but not before he turns and smiles at her. She lifts "her pretty chin in the air" and laughs aloud. Their storm of passion is at its end, and Calixta happily embraces her family when they return, expressing her satisfaction that they have returned safely. Also content, Alcée writes to his wife in a loving tone. He generously extends his permission for her to prolong her stay with old friends and acquaintances.
The manner in which both Calixta and Alcée appear to be happier and satisfied illustrates Chopin's controversial theme that some liberty is a necessary part of a happy marriage.
"The Storm" takes place in a village in coastal Louisiana, with the most prominent setting being the home of Calixta and Bobinôt. Aside from the house, however, the time, place, and circumstances related to the setting also play a lot of importance in who the characters are in society.
The home, described as a small house whose salient trait is the "white, monumental bed," is of great importance because it is in that bed that Calixta and Alcée, her former flame, end up passing the storm.
The house, where Calixta spends a lot of her time alone even though she is married with children, ends up housing her former boyfriend, who was passing by and whom she had not seen for a while after her marriage. What this means is that the house seems to have called the lovers back together to fulfill their wishes of intimacy in the bedroom, while keeping everyone away due to the huge storm that came over the town.
The hidden aspects revealed by the storm are evident in Alcée and Calixta more than any other characters. Calixta resents her lonely life after marriage, and she is certainly not fulfilled. She is so unfulfilled that it takes just a few touches from Alcée for the two to become immediately engaged in a sexual act. Alcée has always loved Calixta but he is also married. Yet he also seems shocked at the fact that they have finally become intimate even when they had opportunities in the past but never took them.
One more important fact about the setting is that the story takes place in 19th century Louisiana. There were social differences among the French descendants of the first French generation that lived in the area. Calixta and Bobinôt speak like what the novel calls "Cadians." These are the Acadians, or the inhabitants of Acadia in Nova Scotia, who are descendants of French-Americans that then took exile in Louisiana.
As such, they speak differently, are not considered sophisticated in their insistence on using French, and are generally regarded as inferior to the Creoles, who descend from the original French settlers. Alcée and his wife are Creoles, and it is evident in how Alcée's wife is away traveling while he is here. They seem to come from a higher class, and their English is spoken more clearly than that of Calixta and her family.
Hence, the time and place of the setting reveal that there are differences among the inhabitants of the area. These differences are mainly found in the way they speak, which reveals who they are in society and what their lineage is.
Additionally, the setting of the small house with the huge bed under a massive storm creates the opportunity for the two main characters to become isolated and answer to their inner desires once they are alone in the right place and in the right time.