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The Justification of Adultery through the Storm’s Image in Kate Chopin’s “The Storm”

The Justification of Adultery

There are many interpretations of human relations with the natural world. Most of the world thinkers agree that the social order with its morality and institutions is in opposition to the natural one where only the instincts rule. Besides, there are at least two possible evaluations of those two orders. According to the first one, people should try to escape the natural chains in order to become free through the morality. The second point of view is that the only way to freedom is to accept own nature that may contradict with the artificial social norms. Thus, those who share the second position, consider that many socially unacceptable actions such as adultery, for example, should be treated as a natural part of life because there are no marriages in the natural world, only in human society. Such point of view seems to be close to Kate Chopin’s position. Her short story “The Storm” shows the unity of nature and people through different metaphorical images that convince the reader to accept both the preference and the inevitability of natural processes over all possible moral forms. Chopin achieves such an effect through the parallelism between natural phenomena and human behavior and deeds that can be treated as immoral. Thus, in the short story, the storm’s image justifies the phenomenon of adultery through its double natural meaning: the storm metaphorically represents the adultery itself, and directly serves as a natural reason for it.

The symbolism of the short story is based on the metaphorical correlation between nature and the main characters. The main characters of “The Storm” are Calixta and Alcee Laballiere who commit adultery during the storm (Chopin 42). All other characters (Bobinot and Clarisse Laballiere) perform the additional roles of those who could evaluate that adultery in case they somehow caught the lovers. Thus, Bobinot and Clarisse represent the society and its position concerning everything that does not correspond to the public morality. The social role of these two characters is clear because their only connection with the main characters (Calixta and Alcee) is the social institution of marriage. In contrast, Calixta and Alcee accept their natural essence in the short story and in this way they metaphorically represent the natural phenomena also described in the text. Thus, there is a parallelism between the images of rain and Alcee. “As she stepped outside, Alcee Laballiere rode in at the gate … and the big rain drops began to fall” (Chopin 41). Then, when he leaves Calixta, there is no rain as well: “the rain was over; … Calixta, on the gallery, watched Alcee ride away” (Chopin 42). It is interesting that Bobinot metaphorically feels the approaching of Alcee. Thus, he shows his son “certain somber clouds, that were rolling with sinister intention from the west, accompanied by a sullen, threatening roar” (Chopin 40). Bobinot thinks that Calixta “will shut the house” (Chopin 40), but she accepts Alcee as well as earth accepts the rainwater. In this way, the parallels between Calixta with Alcee and earth with rain become clear.

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The storm as the central image of the short story metaphorically represents the adultery between Calixta (earth) and Alcee (rain). The image of the storm that mixes water and earth in one unity perfectly shows the passionate contact between the main characters (Chopin 42). It is also clear that in the land where the described action takes place the weather is mostly calm, and the storm (as an unexpected change of the weather) looks like a natural prototype of adultery, after which the calm weather returns like a tricked husband. In this regard, there are parallels between the image of Bobinot and that of the sun that came after the storm ended. The approaching of Bobinot is metaphorically similar to the return of the sun: “the rain was over; and the sun was turning the glistening green world into a place of gems” (Chopin 42). In such a way, it is possible to interpret the adultery between Alcee and Calixta as a part of some global natural process that has no connection to any questions of morality.

Along with the metaphorical interpretation, the storm itself also serves as a natural reason for the adultery described in the short story. It is clear that Calixta’s husband and their son could not leave Friedheimer’s store because of the storm, at the same time Alcee primarily came to Calixta in order to wait for the storm’s end (Chopin 40-41). Thus, the storm as a natural phenomenon taken without any symbolical meanings provides the full scope of conditions for a successful adultery.

Through both mentioned meanings of the storm’s image the author justifies adultery as a natural phenomenon that may occur as spontaneously as a storm does. It is clear because Chopin symbolically shows both processes as the same one, and underlines that there would be no adultery without the storm. The hidden argumentation of the author is very sophisticated: no reader evaluates the storm as something morally inacceptable when the adultery looks like cheating committed by Alcee and Calixta. There is nothing unneeded in nature, and the storm is as important as any other natural phenomenon. In such a way, Kate Chopin tries to persuade the reader to treat adultery as morally neutrally as any change of weather that occurs in accordance with a general order of nature. The attempt to legitimize adultery through the appellation to its similarity with a storm makes the reader see the issue from a new perspective.

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The general author’s idea is to show that the only reason to treat adultery as a negative action is its social interpretation that depends on many optional factors. Thus, Kate Chopin describes a situation in which the adultery stays hidden from the society (from Bobinot and Clarisse who represent the society in the short story). In fact, the author tries to show that there is nothing bad in such a situation because the adultery between Calixta and Alcee makes all characters of the short story happy. Alcee smiles, and Calixta laughs when the storm ends (Chopin 42). Then, when Bobinot and Bibi return, “the three … laughed much and so loud that anyone might have heard them as far away as Laballiere’s” (Chopin 43). At last, Alcee sends his wife a letter and asks her to stay in Biloxi, and both of them are satisfied by that (Chopin 43). In this way, the author concludes: “so the storm passed and everyone was happy” (Chopin 43). Symbolically it means that there is nothing morally inacceptable in adultery except the social perception and evaluation of that.

Kate Chopin’s “The Storm” proposes a metaphorical point of view on the moral issues connected with the problem of adultery. The author justifies adultery through its parallelism and causal connection with the storm as a natural phenomenon that has its right for existence within the natural order, which leads to common happiness. In this way, the short story shows the social norms as the restrictive barriers that pervert the natural world of freedom. Such a position is not morally acceptable, but it helps to evaluate the correlation between the humanity and nature from a new perspective and in this way to understand the problem of morality more fully.