A Summary and Analysis of Kate Chopin’s ‘The Storm’

‘The Storm’ is an 1898 short story by the American writer Kate Chopin (1850-1904). The story is a prequel to ‘At the ’Cadian Ball’, another story Chopin had written six years earlier in 1892. However, ‘The Storm’ was too graphic in its exploration of sexuality to be published in Chopin’s lifetime, and was only first published in 1969.

You can read ‘The Storm’, which details the adulterous affair between the French Creole plantation-owner Alcée and the Acadian woman Calixta, here. The story takes around ten minutes to read. Below, we offer and summary and analysis of Chopin’s story.

‘The Storm’: plot summary

Bobinôt is married to Calixta, and they have a four-year-old son, Bibi. Bobinôt and Bibi wait in the local store for the storm to pass, and Bibi asks his father if his mother, Calixta, will be afraid during the storm. Bobinôt reassures him, and purchases a can of shrimp for his wife, because she is fond of it.

Meanwhile Calixta, at home, is busy sewing on a sewing-machine, and hasn’t even noticed the approaching storm so doesn’t worry about the safety of her husband and son. When she finally notices it and goes around the house closing doors and windows, Alcée, a man with whom she had had a brief flirtation before she married Bobinôt five years ago, shows up and asks if he can shelter in the gallery of the house until the storm passes. Alcée, by the way, is now married to Clarisse.

As they wait indoors in the ‘stiflingly hot’ living room of the house, watching the rain and lightning outside, Calixta cries out in shock and staggers. Alcée catches and holds her. She is now worried about where her son is, but Alcée, following their close contact, realises he still desires Calixta.

He reassures her about her son’s safety and sees in her eyes that she desires him, too. He kisses her, and is reminded of their romantic tryst six years before, in the town of Assumption, when they were both still unmarried. He asks her if she remembers that day, when he kissed her repeatedly. They kiss again and give in to their passions. When it is over and the storm has passed, she watches him ride off, and she laughs.

Bobinôt and Bibi return home, and Bobinôt insists his son clear the mud off his clothes before they enter the house. Calixta greets them enthusiastically, showing how relieved she is that Bibi is unharmed. Bobinôt presents his wife with the shrimps he bought for her, and she kisses him. All three of them laugh together.

The final sections of the story turn to Alcée, who is busy writing a letter to Clarisse, his wife, who is vacationing at Biloxi with their babies, to improve her health. He tells her not to hurry back if being there is doing her good, and his letter is full of concern for her.

Clarisse receives his letter and it is revealed that she is feeling better since taking a break from her husband, and has recovered ‘the pleasant liberty’ of the days before she was married. Chopin’s narrator tells us that she is a devoted wife to her husband, but ‘their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while’, implying that perhaps Alcée is oversexed and demands his ‘conjugal rights’ of her on a regular basis, and more frequently than she is comfortable with.

The very last sentence of the story reads: ‘So the storm passed and every one was happy.’

‘The Storm’: analysis

‘So the storm passed and every one was happy.’ These final words of Chopin’s story – which offers a remarkably frank and graphic account of extramarital passion, especially when we consider when it was written – refer not just to the literal cyclone which rages outside but also the stormy passions raging within the bosoms of Alcée and Calixta (whose bosom, indeed, is mentioned more than once in this short story).

What are we to make of this final sentence? Kate Chopin appears to be unequivocally stating that what went on during the storm passed and everyone continued their happy family lives together: Alcée and Calixta had consummated their long-standing desire for each other, and could now go back to being, respectively, a solicitous husband and a loyal wife and doting mother.

Indeed, Chopin implies that Alcée’s brief moment of passion with Calixta has even benefited Clarisse, who (it is hinted) has grown overwhelmed and perhaps even unwell by her husband’s continued sexual interest in her. (How many ‘babies’ exactly do they have? One pictures her holidaying at Biloxi with a brood of five children, one for every year they’ve been married; contraception was by no means an easy thing to secure in the 1890s!) By releasing some of the pressure with Calixta, Alcée has cooled his natural passions somewhat and is no longer feeling as demanding towards his wife, even suggesting that she extend her vacation away from home.

After all, it is not suggested at the end of ‘The Storm’ that Alcée and Calixta will reprise their erotic encounter. Chopin’s use of the stormy weather to mirror the passions raging within the characters (a form of pathetic fallacy, though sexually as well as electrically charged, we might say) also carries the implication that, like the storm, such a tryst will be a rare and perhaps even one-off occasion: the weather and their desires will calm down in due course.

Of course, such behaviour would have been condemned by most Americans in 1898, when Chopin wrote ‘The Storm’; she never sought to publish the story, clearly realising that no self-respecting magazine would risk publishing it for fear of the ‘storm’ (as it were) of criticism and outrage which would greet its arrival on newsstands. But Chopin is careful to depict Calixta, in particular, as a good wife and mother, her adultery notwithstanding. The final snapshot of her family is one of love and laughter, as her doting husband presents her with his gift from the store and the three of them sit down, laughing and eating together. The message is clear: no harm has been done.

But more than this, Calixta’s mood has actually improved since her brief tryst with Alcée. Before he arrives, she is busy working away at that most wifely of tasks: sewing clothes. Indeed, Chopin’s third-person narrator makes a point of telling us that she ‘did not notice the approaching storm’ (and, by extension, she was not looking for her stormy encounter with Alcée). Alcée’s arrival, and the storm, provide her with a brief respite from these responsibilities which she otherwise clearly takes seriously.

Chopin provides us with another fairly transparent symbol that Calixta should not be judged as immoral or irresponsible for what she has done. This is through that symbol of purity par excellence: whiteness. In this short text, we are given numerous references to white things in relation to the pure Calixta: the ‘white sacque at her throat’, the ‘white, monumental bed’ in the bedroom, her ‘white neck’, and then ‘her round, white throat and her whiter breasts’.

This is akin to Thomas Hardy’s description of Tess, the heroine of his (at the time, scandalous) 1895 novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, as ‘a pure woman’ (who is also often described in relation to whiteness).


Chopin may have been telling her readers not to judge Calixta, but those readers did not exist in 1898. They would only become possible in 1969 when ‘The Storm’, belatedly, arrived on the scene – by which time the winds of change were already blowing through America thanks to the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

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