What is the irony in "The Storm" by Kate Chopin?
In Kate Chopin's short story "The Storm," the irony is situational. Situational irony occurs when there is a difference between what is expected to happen and what actually happens. The story contains dramatic irony, which is defined as the audience or readers having knowledge that the characters do not have.
The setting of this story is a torrential rain storm. Calixta, who is married to Bobint and has a son named Bibi, is home alone when the storm hits. Her husband and young son find shelter at the store. Alce, a man Calixta knew before her marriage, is passing through and is caught in the storm. At first, he resolves to stay outside and under cover, but the storm is so strong that it drives him inside. Their passions for each other are ignited, and they end up having an affair. This is ironic because when they knew each other before when they were both free, Alce did not feel he could violate her honor. Consider the following quote:
"If she was not an immaculate dove in those days, she was still inviolate; a passionate creature whose very defenselessness had made her defense, against which his honor forbade him to prevail."
Calixta now knows "her birthright" for the first time.
"Her firm, elastic flesh that was knowing for the first time its birthright..."
After the storm is over, Calixta is glad to see her husband and son and happy they are safe. Likewise, Alce writes his wife a love letter. Readers are aware of the affair between Calixta and Alce, but neither of their spouses suspects the infidelity, which, one could argue, might constitute a kind of dramatic irony.
The irony in this excellent short story lies in the impact of the adulterous relationship between Calixta and Alcee on their marriages. There is situational irony in the way that we expect that such a tempestuous (no pun intended) session of lovemaking, which is presented very explicitly but also in a way that suggests that Calixta and Alcee are somehow meant for each other actually benefits their respective marriages. Note how their union is presented:
Her firm, elastic flesh that was knowing for the first time its birthright, was like a creamy lily that the sun invites to contribute its breath and perfume to the undying life of the world.
Phrases such as Calixta knowing her "birthright" whilst having extra-marital sex with Alcee suggest that she will be unable to return to her husband after this. However, after the storm of passion that has been unleashed, the air appears to have been cleared, and both Calixta and Alcee are shown to return even happier than before to their respective partners:
So the storm passed and everyone was happy.
This is the irony in this excellent short story, as Chopin shockingly suggests that such outlets of tempestuous passion can actually help marriage rather than destroy it.
Since Kate Chopin's "The Storm" is a sequel to her story entitled "At the 'Cadian Ball," it is important to consider this other narrative as contributing to what is ironic in this story. Arguably, then, it is ironic when Alcée and Calixta, who "talked low, and laughed softly, as lovers do" at the Acadian ball before they each married are again placed privately together as a raging storm brews. But, as their fears are heightened in this storm, it is not surprising that their previously unsatisfied passions resurface in their emotional states.
It is the dramatic irony of Calixta's unsuspecting husband's return as well as the irony of situation in which Calixta and Alcée both are happier with their spouses after their acts of adultery than previously (Alcée writes his wife a loving letter in which he allows her to lengthen her familial visit and Calixta excitedly delights in the shrimp that Bobinôt brings home), that stand out as strong examples of irony in "The Storm." In fact, Chopin remarks upon this ironic turn of events: "So the storm passed, and every one was happy."