How does Kate Chopin use irony in "The Storm"?
Chopin uses both situational irony and dramatic irony in "The Storm." In situational irony, the irony arises from the events in a story. In dramatic irony, the audience knows what characters in the story do not.
Ironically, the violent storm, with its threat of floods and disaster, leads to a period of liberation and happiness for Calixta, Alcée, and his wife, Clarisse. Rather than raising fear, it becomes a time of bliss for Calixta and Alcée, opening a space for them to consummate their love. It provides Clarisse with a sense of peace as well, a welcome break from her husband:
And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days. Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while.
Ironically, too, while infidelity would normally suggest unhappy marriages, both Calixta and Alcée seem contented with their marital lives—the brief affair is just a pleasant interlude. Calixta, for example, is happy to see her husband and son, and they are happy to see her:
Bobinôt and Bibi began to relax and enjoy themselves, and when the three seated themselves at table they laughed much and so loud that anyone might have heard them as far away as Laballières.
The storm has not brought tragedy or disaster to these families but a refreshing interlude. Even Bobinôt and Bibi seem to have enjoyed themselves.
The dramatic irony of the story is that we as readers know that Alcée and Calixta have had a sexual encounter, while their spouses are unaware of this. Ironically, the sexual liaison does not cause even a ripple in the domestic lives of the characters—it is as if it didn't happen. Another dramatic irony is that Alcée doesn't know that his wife is glad to have a break from "intimate conjugal" relations with him, while Calixta, who has just done something her society would consider "unclean," is unaware of the efforts Bobinôt has gone to clean the literal mud from himself and Bibi. Normally a storm is a metaphor for turmoil, but in this case, nothing bad has happened, and life goes on.