Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 448

Storm is an intimate study of human loneliness and solitude. In the play, August Strindberg universalizes and objectifies what is essentially autobiographical material. The Gentleman, for example, defends the attitude of resignation that Strindberg himself suffered during a difficult period following his divorce. The Gentleman insists that one can find...

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Storm is an intimate study of human loneliness and solitude. In the play, August Strindberg universalizes and objectifies what is essentially autobiographical material. The Gentleman, for example, defends the attitude of resignation that Strindberg himself suffered during a difficult period following his divorce. The Gentleman insists that one can find peace only by isolating oneself from others and their oppressive passions. He resorts to living in and for his happy memories of his former wife and child. He has, in effect, engineered calm weather for himself. Even his relationships with Louise and Karl Fredrik are aloof and detached.

The “stormy weather” of the title is represented by Gerda, Fischer, and Anne-Charlotte. These new tenants—associated with heat lightning throughout the play—disturb the Gentleman’s tranquillity and upset his plan for a peaceful old age. However, they also serve to resolve some loose ends: The Gentleman’s suppressed emotions about Gerda and Karl Fredrik finally emerge. Rage, it seems, simmers beneath his calm facade; thus, as Louise recognizes, he is not as free as he thinks. Genuine freedom would mean release from the past rather than imprisonment within it.

Ironically, Gerda’s reappearance liberates the Gentleman from his fossilized memories and ghosts. Strindberg leaves the matter of who abandoned whom unclear. Gerda apparently left her husband—and took Anne-Charlotte with her—only after he had in effect abandoned her by “setting her free.” For five years he has remained alone in the apartment where his family once resided. He has converted it into a kind of shrine, which Karl Fredrik and Louise find unhealthy. When he meets Gerda again, he finds her so changed that she almost seems to be a complete stranger. He is not interested in restoring his father/daughter relationship with Anne-Charlotte, since he believes that the child’s mind has been poisoned against him. It is impossible, he contends, to start over again at his age.

The Gentleman’s feeling of betrayal by Karl Fredrik also surfaces during this spell of stormy weather. He accuses his brother of conspiring with Gerda, of taking sides with an enemy who has maligned him. He concludes that Gerda, Karl Fredrik, and others who defected from his life could not bear his independence from the common conventions and mores of bourgeois society. His sole option has been to withdraw from entangling alliances which, he concludes, lead only to grief.

Once the storm has passed, the Gentleman feels only relief; he refuses to become a part of Gerda’s and Anne-Charlotte’s lives. His peace is restored. Indeed, he plans to move out of the Silent House—which can be taken as a premonition or foreshadowing of his death.

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Characters