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Sexual Standards and Restraints of the Late 19th Century - Essay Example


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Sexual Standards and Restraints of the Late 19th Century

The storm is a metaphor for passion and adultery, bringing a welcome change to the usual pattern of everyday life. In both structure and content, the story undermines the sexual standards and restraints of the time, resulting in a rather daring critique of respectable married life which celebrates temporary transgression but stops short of undermining the institution of marriage completely. The structure of the story is contained in five clearly numbered sections. The first is a short, descriptive introduction, portraying Calixta’s husband Bobinot and four year old son Bibi while the second is a long narrative describing Calizta’s adventure with the dashing former admirer who shelters in her house, and ultimately also her bed, while the storm rages all around them. These two sections are emotionally linked, since the little boy is reassured by his father: “Bibi laid his little hand on his father’s knee and was not afraid” (Chopin, Section I), while Calixta and Alcee comfort each other physically with passionate embraces. The third section is another short one, showing the father and son returning home, while the last two sections four and five are little more than afterthoughts, showing the wider context of Alcee and Clarisse. This couple are shown enjoying temporary separation from each other, although perhaps for quite different reasons, since it is noted that Clarisse “was more than willing to forgo for a while … their intimate conjugal life.” (Chopin, Section 5) Section two dominates

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the story, since it is longer than all the other sections together, and there is clearly a focus on the character of Calixta, since her surroundings, and her domestic activities are described in minute detail, as indeed is the romantic encounter with Alcee. The image of Calixta “at a side window sewing furiously on a sewing machine” (Chopin, Section two) shows her somewhat stressed and under pressure, since she feels too warm, and rushes from one place to the other, gathering up clothing and closing shutters as she suddenly realizes that the storm is approaching. Her lack of awareness of the storm conveys to the reader that she is a victim of circumstance and chance, which suddenly came upon her, rather than someone who goes out looking to betray her husband. There are some indications that both Calixta and Alcee try to abide by the social conventions of the time, since she clutches her husband’s and child’s clothes, as if to cling to her family duties, while he “expressed an intention to remain outside” (Chopin, Section two). A subtle shift of perspective occurs when Alcee enters the Calixta’s modest house. The narrator describes at this point Calixta’s physical appearance, including her figure, eyes, and hair, and significantly also her “vivacity” (Chopin, Section two). It is clear that the reader is being invited to see her as Alcee sees her. She appears at the same time innocent and seductive, and very little changed from the time before her marriage. Alcee comes in out of the rain, because the storm is making him wet, and he embraces Calixta, because the storm is making her afraid. The storm is therefore portrayed an arbitrary mechanism which unleashes all kinds of pent up natural passions, but far from being a terrifying and destructive force, it is joyful and life-affirming: “They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms.” (Chopin, Section two). The two experience a stormy spell of human passion,
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ENG 111-038N Essay #2. “The Storm.” The short story entitled “The Storm” by Kate Chopin is, as its title suggests, a brief account of a storm which appears suddenly and brings torrential rain, thunder and lightning to a small town in the American South…
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