In "The Storm," what does "a can of shrimp" symbolize in the story?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bobinot purchases the “can of shrimps” in part one of the story.  Readers are not told much about the purchase other than the fact that Calixta is “very fond” of shrimp.  Bobinot is unable to immediately return home with his son and their purchase because a large storm has driven everybody indoors.  After the storm, Bobinot returns home and gives his wife the shrimp.  She is pleased with the purchase and gives her husband a big thank-you kiss.  

"Shrimps! Oh, Bobinot! you too good fo' anything!" and she gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek that resounded.

That happens in part three of the story, and if readers only had to go by parts one and three, it would appear that Bobinot and Calixta are happily married.  They have a child together, he thinks of her when he is away, and he intentionally buys her little things that he knows that she likes.  The can of shrimp is a “thinking of you” gift.  It’s symbolic of Bobinot’s love for his wife, and it shows that he is a devoted and caring husband.  Calixta seems to genuinely be thankful for the gift too, so it seems that she at the very least loves and appreciates her husband’s effort to make her happy.  Unfortunately, part two of the story shows readers that Calixta doesn’t have the same focused devotion that Bobinot has.  In section two of the story, Calixta has sex with a former boyfriend that is taking shelter with her.  

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let us remember that the can of shrimp that your question refers to appears at the beginning of this excellent short story, in the first section. We are told that Bobinot buys the can of shrimp because he knows that Calixta is very fond of shrimp. After the storm has passed, and Bobinot returns with his son home, note how Calixta responds to this gift:

"Shrimps! Oh, Bobinot! you too good fo' anything!" and she gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek that resounded.

Thus the can of shrimps can be seen as a symbol of the love that Bobinot feels towards his wife. He buys the can of shrimps because he loves her and knows that this will please her. It is a symbol of the way that he is a good, loving husband, which is of course ironic given the way that during the storm that prevented his returning home, Calixta was being unfaithful.