What details in Kate Chopin's story "The Storm" emphasize the fact that Bobinôt loves his wife? What details reveal how imperfectly he comprehends her nature?
In Kate Chopin’s short story “The Storm,” the love of Bobinôt for his wife Calixta is suggested in a variety of ways, including the following:
- As the storm approaches, Bobinôt and his young son Bibi are distant from their home (where Calixta is alone in the threatening weather). In the store in which he and Bibi are waiting for the storm to pass, Bobinôt purchases a can of shrimp, because he knows that Calixta is “very fond” of shrimp.
- Apparently the story is set in the late nineteenth century, rather than before the Civil War (see the discussion at katechopin.org). This is important, because apparently Bobinôt is paying for a woman named Sylvie to come into the house and help Calixta with the housework. (Sylvie does not seem to be a slave but seems to be hired help.) The fact that Bobinôt hires someone to help his wife implies that he loves her.
- At the end of the introductory passage, Bibi puts his hand on Bobinôt’s knee, apparently to reassure him. Since Bibi and Bobinôt are relatively safe in the store as the storm hits, perhaps Bibi senses that his father is worrying about the safety of Calixta. This possibility is reinforced by the first sentence of Part II, which mentions that Calixta herself is not worried about her safety.
- When Bobinôt and Bibi return home after the storm, Bobinôt is concerned that they should “make themselves presentable” to Calixta – a phrase suggesting that he cares about her opinion of them and that he wants to appear to be (as he indeed seems to be) a good father to their child. Bobinôt is particularly concerned about what Calixta will say about the appearance of Bibi. If Bobinôt did not care for Calixta, he probably would not be very concerned about her opinions.
- Calixta’s warm welcome to Bibi and to Bobinôt, while perhaps tinged with a bit of guilt, does seem to express genuine affection, both for her son and for her husband. It is unlikely that Calixta would express such affection for Bobinôt if she did not love Bobinôt, at least on some level, and if she did not in turn sense his love for her.
- The fact that Calixta praises Bobinôt for the shrimp, rather than merely sullenly and silently accepting the gift, again implies their mutual affection:
"Shrimps! Oh, Bobinôt! you too good fo' anything!" and she gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek . . . ."
Again, her love for Bobinôt is probably in part a response to her sense that he loves her. The laughter the small family shares as they eat the shrimps again suggests love all around.
Unfortunately, Bobinôt fails to comprehend his wife’s complex nature as deeply as he might. She does indeed seem to love Bobinôt on some level, but various details suggest that her love is not as complete as it could be. Such details include the following:
- Her longing for physical passion, as in her memories of her earlier relationship with Alcée at Assumption (a relationship described in Chopin’s story “At the ’Cadian Ball”).
- Her willingness to commit adultery with Alcée, with no attempt at resistance at all, and apparently with no deep regrets or moral scruples.
- The fact that Alcée was always the man she most wanted, and that Bobinôt had merely been the man for whom she had “settled.”