What symbolic elements can be found in "The Storm" by Kate Chopin and how does it relate to the characters?I've noticed that the storm holds a quite a bit of symbolism in the story but what other...

What symbolic elements can be found in "The Storm" by Kate Chopin and how does it relate to the characters?

I've noticed that the storm holds a quite a bit of symbolism in the story but what other forms of symbolism do you see and what do understand the storm's symbolism to stand for?

Expert Answers
Jane Ames eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are symbols both prominent and small in Chopin's "The Storm."

A small yet interesting symbol in this story is the can of shrimps Bobinot purchases for Calixta. The can of shrimps is a small trifle, yes, but it indicates the husband's thoughtfulness and care for his wife and the way he provides her with little pleasures. When the can reappears after the storm (and Calixta's impromptu affair), it serves as a symbol of domestic happiness. Calixta is delighted by the can of shrimps and, more importantly, by her husband's attentiveness. It is a sign of continuity and strength in the marriage in an otherwise tumultuous story.

Bobinot's clothes hanging on the wire also make a comment as to the nature and endurance of Calixta and Bobinot's marriage. Once the storm starts and as Alcee arrives, Calixta "hastens out to gather [the clothes] before the rain fell." She also "seized Bobinot's vest" and "grabbed the trousers and snatched Bibi's braided jacket." Why all this frenzied grabbing and snatching? It is a protective gesture. Just as Calixta seeks to protect her family's clothes from the storm, so too will she preserve her family once the storm (her affair with Alcee) passes.

Perhaps quite obviously, the storm itself is the most prominent symbol in the story. It indeed is the vehicle for the plot and central theme of the story. Essentially, the storm serves as a symbol of a suspended moment—a time in which the social and personal roles of the characters are void, and they may explore as they wish. A storm is a time of uncertainty and great force—just as Alcee and Calixta's encounter is characterized by momentary doubt and immense passion. Chopin means for the storm to symbolize a space of freedom for those within the confines of marriage and family life, such that the moment of happiness actually bolsters the strength of the family bonds. For instance, at the end of the story, Chopin mentions something intriguing about Alcee's relationship with his own wife: "their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for awhile." Clarisse enjoys her freedom from Alcee, just as Calixta enjoys her freedom from Bobinot. It is not a permanent thing but a moment of self-indulgence and joy, a "storm" in which impulses and desires may be satiated and the characters can return to their "normal" lives as happier, more robust people. It is no coincidence that Chopin concludes the story by saying, "So the storm passed and every one was happy."

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Even though it is a pretty short story, "The Storm" by Kate Chopin is packed with symbolism.  As you mentioned in your question, the storm itself is a symbol of the coming change that occurs in the lives of the characters, as a result of Alcee's affair with Calixta.  The story itself starts with a storm brewing, seeming to foreshadow great harm or chaos; in reality, it ushers in what Chopin makes out to be a very positive change in the life of all of the characters.  The affair, instead of tearing their lives apart like a storm would, instead frees Calixta and helps her to release some of her frustrations, and settle more happily into her station in life.  So, the storm is a symbol of something that normally would be considered bad, tumultuous or dangerous actually being something that is good and fulfilling.  That description applies to both the storm itself and to the affair's impact on the characters' lives.

Other symbolism can include Chopin's use of colors.  The bedroom is white, symbolizing how she feels their affair is a sanctified and pure act, rather than a sinful one, as society felt.  Calixta's lips are red and hair is shining gold, symbolizing her appeal to Alcee.  So, take a look at the colors that are used also, as they hold symbolic value.  Then you have little things throughout the story, like the chinaberry tree being struck by lightning, symbolizing or foreshadowing a great change about to occur, the shrimps that Bobinot buys for his wife, as a symbol of his desire to please her, and his fear of her disapproval.  The mud on the shoes that he and his son track into the house, as a symbol of the displeasure of Calixta in her station as a housewife, that is associated with her husband and son....if you look closely, you can use many things as symbols.

I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!