illustrated portrait of American author Kate Chopin

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The settings of "The Storm" and "The Story of an Hour" and their reinforcement of feminist messages

Summary:

The settings of "The Storm" and "The Story of an Hour" reinforce feminist messages by highlighting the constraints placed on women. In "The Storm," the domestic space reflects the protagonist's confinement and her brief escape into autonomy. In "The Story of an Hour," the home setting underscores the protagonist's oppressive marriage and fleeting sense of freedom upon believing her husband is dead.

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Compare and contrast the settings of "The Storm" and "The Story of an Hour".

The settings of both "The Story of an Hour" and "The Storm" are domestic, as both stories take place within the home and from the perspective of the housewife. Both Louise and Calixta are married, and their husbands are absent from the home at the time of the action. The stories both conclude with the women's husbands returning home (to very different effects on their wives).

The absence of Louise's husband is due to his supposed death in a train accident; she understands it to be a permanent absence. Contemplating her new circumstances, Louise sits in her bedroom in a "comfortable, roomy armchair" looking out of an open window. The window looks out onto "an open square before her house" where "the tops of trees [are] all aquiver with the new spring life." Louise notices the "delicious breath of rain" in the air, but this is not a gathering storm. She also sees

Patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.

It seems from the description that the storm in Louise's world is over, and everything seems clean, fresh, and new in the aftermath. This can be compared to Louise's outpouring of grief at the news of her husband's death giving way to her happy anticipation of a future where she can live independently. When her husband, who has not been in an accident, returns at the end of the story, Louise's newfound freedom vanishes in an instant, and she dies of shock.

Conversely, the absence of Calixta's husband is due to the titular storm; he has gone with their young child to the general store, and he and the child are simply waiting out the storm before they return. Calixta therefore anticipates her husband's return, and the sudden storm unexpectedly prolongs his absence. Before the storm, the heat is gathering intensely, and Calixta must often wipe the sweat from her face. The sky begins to darken as

Sombre clouds [rolled] with sinister intention from the west, accompanied by a sullen, threatening roar.

The pressure and tension that builds before the storm erupts parallel the pressures and tensions within Calixta's heart. She loves her husband, but the arrival of her old flame, Alcée, awakens a long-dormant passion within her.

His voice and her own startled her as if from a trance.

The trance of her marriage is broken by Alcée's presence, and he is literally brought into her house by the force of the storm. It is so powerful, it is "necessary to put something beneath the door to keep the water out." There is thunder and lightning, and the rain is "coming down in sheets." A sudden crack of lightning startles Calixta, and Alcée instinctively takes her into his arms. That is all that is required to rekindle their old passion, and before they can help themselves, they are kissing and clinging to each other. As the storm rages outside, Calixta and Alcée make love.

They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms.

The storm climaxes as the lovers do and then the storm begins to move away into the distance. Calixta and Alcée lie drowsily together for a little while, but they know their encounter is over. When the rain has stopped, they part amicably, smiling at each other as Alcée rides away on his horse.

The return of the good weather heralds the return of Calixta's ordinary life, and her husband and son come home. But unlike for Louise, the return of her husband does not dishearten Calixta. She does not feel trapped by her marriage the way Louise does, and having had an outlet for her passion, she is happy to welcome her family back into the house. For Louise, the blue sky after the rain represented freedom from her marriage, whereas for Calixta the rain itself granted her a brief freedom.

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Compare and contrast the settings of "The Storm" and "The Story of an Hour".

In "The Story of an Hour," Louise Mallard is in her home, having just learned that her husband is dead. She retreats to her room to mourn, leaving her sister and her husband's friend downstairs. The most significant part of the setting is the open window of that room and the landscape outside. She is mentally and physically exhausted from dealing with the news of her husband's death, but she is rejuvenated at the thought of her new found freedom. The "open" window signifies this freedom, that she is no longer closed in, locked into the role of the dutiful wife within the confines of a traditional marriage. Looking out of the window, everything she sees seems full of life and promise. The trees were "all aquiver with the new spring of life." She hears a song, the twittering of sparrows, and she sees the blue patches of sky emerging from the clouds. The sky and the world are "opening" up to her. 

The blue sky peering through the clouds represents Louise's awakening to freedom. In "The Storm," the weather is quite the opposite. However, it represents a similar theme of freedom. In this story, the outpouring of the storm represents the outpouring of passion from Calixta. The release of the rain and the power of the storm symbolize the passion experienced between Calixta and Alcee. 

The two settings are drastically different. The calm, clear blue sky is opposed to the chaotic, thundering rain. However, both settings represent similar things to both women. For Louise, the clear sky represents an awakening of freedom and a sense of empowerment. In the latter story, the storm represents an outpouring of passion. In both cases, the setting is used to symbolize feelings of freedom which are limited by the roles of traditional marriage. 

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How do the settings of "The Storm" and "The Story of an Hour" reinforce their feminist messages?

Both stories take place during the late nineteenth century during a time when women had many fewer rights than men, especially in marriage. A married woman lost her legal identity, as it became subsumed by her husband's identity. She could not vote, and any property she owned prior to the marriage became his. It was an era of restriction for women, in terms of propriety, what was considered appropriate behavior and dress, and their roles.

Women were supposed to be wives and mothers, and they were supposed to be satisfied in this role. Many weren't, as we see with Louise Mallard. When she believes that her husband has died, she is forced to acknowledge that he loved her and was a good man, but she still felt that her life did not truly belong to her as a married woman. Now free from her marriage, she feels a sense of freedom that makes her wish for a long life.

Calixta also seems to chafe against the restrictions placed on women in marriage. When the storm breaks loose, driving her former lover into the house, it takes little time before the passion which has, evidently, been pent up within her breaks loose as well.

We see that women are not fulfilled by their restricted roles and the rules they are forced to follow. It is because of the restrictions that exist in this particular time period that these women's experiences become so demonstrative: neither is fulfilled by her marriage, and that is not good for either partner. Brently Mallard has a wife who was happy when she thought he was dead, and Bobinot has a wife who sleeps with another man while he's at the store.

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