Word count: 843
Analysis Paper #1: Response to Q#22
One of the hallmarks of great writing is the ability to make the reader empathize with the characters. This goes beyond a connection with the characters, or an understanding of the characters; when a reader can empathize with the characters s/he is truly relating to them. When a reader can feel the pain a character feels the author has accomplished something truly special. In the short story “The Storm” Kate Chopin conveys complex emotional conflict in very few words. In a story that is but a few pages long Chopin is able to tell the story of a woman torn between two men. She uses the storm as a symbol and it is through her rich use of language in describing the storm that Chopin is able to convey the emotion of her characters.
As the storm approaches Calixta is at home working while her husband Bobinot and son Bibi are out at the store. Bobinot points out the storm to Bibi by calling his attention to “certain somber clouds that were rolling with sinister intention from the west, accompanied by a sullen, threatening roar” (p. 531). This description makes it obvious that this is a threatening, dangerous storm. The clouds are portrayed with a sort of consciousness, it is as though the storm is alive, rolling in with “sinister intention … accompanied by a sullen, threatening roar.” It is like a growling animal stalking its prey.
Calixta is waiting at home, working on her sewing machine. She does not notice the approaching storm though she “felt very warm and often stopped to mop her face on which the perspiration gathered in beads” (p. 531). This conveys the message that though Calixta has not yet noticed the coming storm she is subconsciously aware of it. She does not notice the storm approach; however, she does notice the heat and her own perspiration, signs of the coming storm. It suddenly grows dark and realizing the situation Calixta gets up from her sewing machine to ready the house for the storm. As she goes outside she sees Alcee and “the big rain drops began to fall” (p. 532).
It is no coincidence that Alcee and the storm arrive at the same time. Alcee had the intention to remain outside but as the storm gains strength he must come in. “The water beat in upon the boards in driving sheets” making it “necessary to put something beneath the door to keep the water out” (p. 532). However, the strength of the storm that is Alcee cannot be kept out, despite the best efforts of both characters. In fact, the storm is so menacing, the rain beats so hard upon the house “with a force and clatter that threaten to break an entrance and deluge them there” (p. 532). The storm—Alcee—threatens to break apart the house, the life, that Calixta and Bobinot have built together.
The storm is repeatedly described as “stiflingly hot” (p. 532); this mixture of heat and rain causes a humidity that clouds the windows. Calixta stands at the window wiping away the moisture. Alcee joins her but as they look out the window the rain comes down in “sheets obscuring the view of far-off cabins and enveloping the distant wood in a gray mist” (p. 532). The storm has obstructed their normal view of life; it has isolated them from the far-off cabins and distant wood, it is only Calixta and Alcee that remain. The “incessant” lightning strikes a tree in the field filling “all visible space with a blinding glare” and crash that “seemed to invade the very boards they stood upon” (p. 532). The storm is full of electricity, incessant electricity, this spark between Calixta and Alcee which threatens to blind them and cannot be denied.
As the lightning strikes the tree, Calixta staggers backward into Alcee’s arms. The storm cannot be avoided, the pounding rain and crashing lightning cannot be ignored; nor can the pounding desire and crashing emotion of Calixta and Alcee be ignored. “They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms” (p. 533) The storm reaches its climax, as do Calixta and Alcee, and in his arms she is no longer scared, she now laughs at the roaring storm. “The growl of the thunder was distant and passing away. The rain beat softly upon the shingles…” (p. 533). The storm is passing, the threat is over.
Through her rich description of the storm Chopin is able to convey to the reader the feeling of her characters. Not only do we understand Calixta’s emotional turmoil, we can feel it. The storm is menacing, it rolls in “somber…with sinister intention.” We can feel the oppressive heat that Calixta feels, the oppression that comes from forbidden desire. The storm builds chaotically to its climax, Alcee and Calixta are together, and the storm dies out and fades away. The beauty of Chopin’s “The Storm” is her ability to convey feeling through language without describing the emotion.
Chopin, Kate. “The Storm.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature Volume C.
Ed. Nina Baym.