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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Then he returned to his perch on the keg and sat stolidly holding the can of shrimps while the storm burst. It shook the wooden store and seemed to be ripping great furrows in the distant field.

The setting presents as ominous, and the approaching storm foreshadows a tumultuous plot from the first lines. Across the fields, Bobinôt’s wife is facing a storm of her own: the decision of whether to remain faithful to this husband who sits with their child, waiting for a storm to pass. Bobinôt wants to please his wife, and as he considers her at home alone, he purchases one of her favorite treats to share with her upon his return. Then he waits.

She sat at a side window sewing furiously on a sewing machine. She was greatly occupied and did not notice the approaching storm.

At home, Calixta is caught up in domestic life. She works for her husband and child, tired as she pours her labor into their needs, which she has undoubtedly been doing day after day for the last five years. She is so absorbed in her work that she doesn’t notice the approaching storm. Literally, she has not looked up from her sewing to notice the storm clouds intensifying outside. Symbolically, she has been so busy in her domestic duties that she doesn’t see the storm on her horizon: the visitor. This isn’t something she has planned but something that erupts within her when the situation presents itself.

She had not seen him very often since her marriage, and never alone. She stood there with Bobinôt’s coat in her hands, and the big rain drops began to fall.

The foreshadowing is heavy here. This is a man she knows from before her marriage. Since then, she has never seen him “alone.” The reader is aware of an intensity in these words, of things that have passed between them when they were alone, of things that could pass if they are alone together again. And so the storm begins.

She was a little fuller of figure than five years before when she married; but she had lost nothing of her vivacity.

Calixta has changed in her married life, exchanging parts of herself in taking care of her husband and son. But she remains vivacious, full of life and passions which likely aren’t fulfilled at the sewing machine.

A bolt struck a tall chinaberry tree at the edge of the field. It filled all visible space with a blinding glare and the crash seemed to invade the very boards they stood upon.

Calixta put her hands to her eyes, and with a cry, staggered backward. Alcée’s arm encircled her, and for an instant he drew her close and spasmodically to him.

This lightning is symbolic of a new knowledge: Calixta is suddenly aware of the unfulfilled passions that she carries with her, the unmet physical desires that lie under her domestic surface. This knowledge pushes her into the arms of her former (innocent) love. After briefly reminiscing about the time they shared before she was married, the two throw themselves into each other’s arms with passionate freedom—despite the fact that they are both, in fact, married.

Then, prepared for the worst—the meeting with an over-scrupulous housewife, they entered cautiously at the back door.

Upon returning home, Bobinôt thinks that the worst thing his wife could possibly do is be critical of his son’s dirty appearance. This shows his ignorance of his wife’s true desires, passions, and capabilities. He is pleasantly surprised that she isn’t angry at all, so the pair relax and settle into an evening of contentment.

Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while.

In another place, there is another wife—Alcée’s. While Calixta enjoys unrestrained passion with Alcée through an affair, his own wife enjoys unrestrained freedom in not having to sleep with him at all. The contrast shows the differing freedoms that individual women long for, noting that the freedoms of some are not the desires of all.

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