The title of Kate Chopin’s short story “The Storm ” functions as a symbol that comments on the theme of female sexuality. In the story, female sexuality is recognized as both a choice and an empowering force. Ironically, it does this in two very different ways for the...
two female figures of the story.
From the moment we first meet her, Calixta is linked to a form of female sexuality. In a moment of foreshadowing that deepens the connection between the storm and sexuality, we learn that although Calixta “did not notice that approaching storm,” “she felt very warm and often stopped to mop her face on which the perspiration gathered in beads.” Moments later, her ex-lover, Alcée, appears at the door.
The language used to describe the conditions produced by the storm is sensual in nature. We learn that it is “stifling hot,” and when a nearby bolt of lightning strikes, the language is particularly sexual:
Calixta put her hands to her eyes, and with a cry, staggered backward. Alcée's arm encircled her, and for an instant he drew her close and spasmodically to him.
Perhaps ironically, Calixta’s newly discovered sexuality does not seem to threaten her identity as a wife or a mother. In fact, it seems to strengthen it, as we learn that she is more patient with her family upon their return.
Conversely, the storm provides Clarisse with the power to escape from her sexual identity as Alcée’s wife. Although this movement is the opposite of Calixta’s in that Clarisse uses the storm to vacate her sexuality, the end result is the same. We learn that, in so doing, Clarisse is able to “restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days.” For these two characters, the storm functions as a symbol of sexuality that achieves very similar ends through opposite means.