What is "Local Color" about Kate Chopin's "The Storm"?Of course, the setting is Louisiana (antebellum South), but what else in the story makes it a specific local color story? (as opposed to simply...
What is "Local Color" about Kate Chopin's "The Storm"?
Of course, the setting is Louisiana (antebellum South), but what else in the story makes it a specific local color story? (as opposed to simply setting a story in antebellum Louisiana, as most works of literature have a setting, while most of these works are not local color)
There are a number of details in the story that provide "local color" or specific details and elements that reflect the actual place setting (Louisiana) and the people who live there. The fact that the clothes are hung on the porch to dry, specifically Bobinot's Sunday clothes, lets us know something about marriage roles and the importance of dressing well on Sunday's in this town. The general store itself where Bobinot and Bibi wait out the storm gives an air of local flavor to the piece. Look at the details that are given there. The purchase of the shrimps, for instance, as well as the use of dialect that is localized in its nature in the following passage:
"I brought you some shrimps, Calixta," offered Bobinôt, hauling the can from his ample side pocket and laying it on the table.
"Shrimps! Oh, Bobinôt! you too good fo' anything!" and she gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek that resounded, "J'vous réponds, we'll have a feas' to-night! umph-umph!
The use of regionalized dialect shows both the local "slang" as well as the French influence that comes to bear in the Louisiana Cajun region.
These are a couple of examples, but the story is filled with small details like this that set it not just in Louisiana but in a specific time frame in a specific area and among a specific group of easily identifiable people.
"Local color" refers to any and all details of the story that associate it with the setting in which the author has placed it. In many of Kate Chopin's works, including "The Storm," descriptions and imagery of the physical setting, names of characters, dialect and French phrases, and references to the worldview or values of the people in that setting are techniques that we could consider part of the story's "local color."
In Part I of "The Storm," the reader can already see a few of these tactics. The French names Bibi and Bobinot, along with children's dialect, and the references to "a can of shrimps" place the story firmly in southern Louisiana. In the next section, the entrance of the character Alcee Laballiere and the French word "sacque" further the local color. Chopin continues to use French in her description and dialogue with phrases like "Dieu sait" (God knows) and words like "Bonte!" (Goodness!). There are also references to Assumption, a parish in Louisiana.
The storm itself could be considered part of the story's local color, as strong, tropical downpours are characteristic of the Gulf South. In Part IV of the story, dialect is used again in the conversation of the children. Again, characters' names are French names, though we are in the United States. Louisiana's culture is known for the strong French influences in language and customs.
Kate Chopin was very interested in and knowledgeable about the various ethnicities of Louisiana, including its Creole and Acadian cultures. Kate Chopin's mother and husband, in fact, were from prominent French Creole families.
In "The Storm," Calixta and Bobinot are Acadians. In a purge of Acadians from the Canadian Maritimes during the "Great Expulsion" of 1755–64, many were sent to France; later, many emigrated to Louisiana, where their culture evolved into the Cajun culture. Alcee and his wife are Creoles. Though both Acadians (Cajuns) and Creoles descend from the French, they typically did not mix, and Acadians were considered to be the social inferiors of the Creoles.
Calixta and Alcee's affair is significant not just because each is married to another person, but also because the two of them are of separate racial and social groups. So, besides being set in Louisiana, the story includes an element of race- mixing that was unique to Louisiana, placing it in the local color movement.