Student Question

What epiphany does a character have in "The Storm" by Kate Chopin?

Quick answer:

Calixta and Alcee have an affair. It only lasts the afternoon, but it is enough for Calixta to see that she is not really in love with her husband. It is something that happened, not a deep feeling.

Expert Answers

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Several characters reach unexpected epiphanies in "The Storm." Calixta realizes the value of her loyal and stable family, even though her marriage to Bobinot may lack passion. She comes to this realization after engaging in a spontaneous, lustful afternoon tryst with Alcee Laballiere while Bobinot and her son, Bibi, are trapped at a local grocery during a treacherous storm. While readers would expect an extramarital affair to tear a family apart, Calixta achieves in it a long-desired fulfillment of her passions and is perfectly content with her family life afterwards. When Bobinot and Bibi have arrived safely home, she revels in their companionship and loyalty. At the dinner table:

...they laughed much and so loud that anyone might have heard them as far away as Laballiere's.

Alcee, too, invigorated by the affair, has an epiphany about how much he values his own wife and children, who are out of town. He writes a jovial letter to his wife, telling her not to rush home, that he is "getting on nicely."

Clarisse, Alcee's wife, receives the letter warmly and welcomes the invitation to stay longer away from home. Like Calixta, Clarisse finds things lacking in her marriage to Alcee and enjoys time apart from him:

And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days. Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while.

Chopin's story elicited much controversy upon its publication in 1898. Her suggestion that the bonds of marriage may be breached and that a husband and wife could find fulfillment in this transgression was met with disapproval by a late nineteenth-century society that demanded the honoring of marital vows, especially for women.

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