Why is the dialogue confusing in "The Storm"?

Dialogue in "The Storm" may be confusing because of three principal elements. The dialogue is sparse and fragmentary, it includes French phrases mixed in with English, and Calixta, in particular, uses non-standard grammar and syntax.

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There are three principal elements in the dialogue of Kate Chopin's short story, "The Storm," which are likely to confuse a reader. The first is its sparse, fragmented nature, which is light on details. For example, the words "Do you remember in Assumption, Calixta?" are enough to make Calixta fall into Alcee's arms, and are the last words of dialogue spoken between the two of them in the story.

The other confusing elements in the dialogue are primarily linguistic: the use of French and the use of vernacular grammar and syntax. The story is set in the American South and, though the exact location remains vague, it appears to be somewhere in Louisiana. While Alcee speaks standard English, Calixta and her family speak a form of Creole, with her version being the most difficult for readers unfamiliar to the dialect to understand, giving rise to dialogue such as:

Shrimps! Oh, Bobint! you too good fo' anything... J'vous rponds, we'll have a feas' to-night! umph-umph!

Here, Calixta speaks with atypical grammar, clips final consonants, intersperses French phrases, and concludes with a noise rather than a word. These habits are characteristic of her throughout the story, and her husband and son speak in a similar way. Although the obstacle to understanding is not serious, it can be somewhat confusing when taken alongside the sparseness of the dialogue and the multiple points of view. These give the story a disorienting, dreamlike quality appropriate for the events described.

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