A Shocking Short Story in a Conservative Society

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Personal essay describing how Kate Chopin’s “The Storm” deconstructs female roles of late XIX century by presenting a woman sexually free, willing to pursuit her own happiness above all, and in equal position to male .
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  Diego Torres MorenoHilda GairaudLM-148606 October 2009A Shocking Short Story in a Conservative SocietyThe role of women in society has always been a difficult one. Women have had tostruggle for their rights throughout history in order to be recognized as equal to men. The XIXcentury was not an exception to this situation, and society considered women jus t a “rib” of me n,which was completely dependent on their will and desires. As a matter of fact, according to Gilbert and Gubart, women are depicted as angels in their house and, “knowing this fact, her  goal in life is to please her husband, to attend to his every comfort, and to obey him. Throughthese selfless acts, she finds her utmost contentment by serving both her husband and her children” (150 - 151). This quote shows the “classic view” of women throughout time where she takes a submissive position towards her spouse. Many authors, well aware of this misconception,started to raise their voices for women ’s rights and their pursuit of happiness. Their mainobstacle was to obtain the attention of the audience (mostly composed by men). As Annette Kolodny explains, “In order to tell and write ‘herstory,’ (story f  rom a woman ’s perspective)however, women must first find a means to gain their voice in the midst of numerous voices -particularly male voices- clamoring for attention in society” (150). Because of this increasingawareness of women’s reality in society, many female authors started to build new approaches of the same every-day situations from a woma n’s point of view. Kate Chopin was one of these many authors whose literary works are charged with strong traits of feminism; all with thepurpose of deconstructing the current view of society towards women. “The Storm” is a short  Torres, D. 2 story that embodies this claim for a new understanding of womanhood in a strong patriarchal society. That is, Kate Chopin’s “The Storm” deconstructs female roles of late XIX century by  presenting a woman sexually free, willing to pursuit her own happiness above all, and in equalposition to male .Sexual freedom can certainly be considered as the driving force of the whole short story,but, above that, it also shows a woman enjoying her sexuality during a time when only men wereallowed to experience sexual desire. Calixta is a homemaker who takes advantage of the storm aswell as her strong feelings for Alcée as a pretext to engage in adultery and follow her sexual desires. “She unfastened her white sacque at the throat.” This behavior of  the loosening of herclothing represents the prelude for the events to happen. It also symbolizes her predisposition toenjoy her body and her inner sexual needs. Moreover, Calixa does not hesitate to wish the bestfor her family, but also to wish for them to not arrive home so she can make love with Alcée: “there’s Bobinot with Bibi out in the storm - if he only didn’t left Freidheimer’s!” Instead of  wishing for her family to arrive home, Calixa hopes for them to stay at the store. This is anunconscious preparation for what is to come. At the beginning of the storm, Calixa is hesitantabout her engaging in sexual intercourse with Alcée, probably due to many social constraintssociety has imposed on her throughout her years as an “angel in the house.” Fortunately, shedetaches from those stereotypes and takes the decision to follow her natural instincts: “As she glances up at him the fear in her liquid blue eyes had given place to a drowsy gleam thatunc onsciously betrayed a sensuous of desire.” Furthermore, Calixa not only favor  s and agrees to her sexuality, but she is also depicted by Chopin as extremely excited with lips “free to betasted.” Calixa’s excitement is also interpreted as her lack of guilt when committing adultery and  Torres, D. 3 the pursuit of her sexual pleasure above everything else; a very uncommon and highly judgedattitude towards sexuality during the time that the story unfolds.Closely related to the previous concept of sexual freedom is the one of happiness pursuit.The narrator portrays Calixa as a woman that looks for her own happiness above all. All theaspects of her life make her happy even though some of them are not well seen by society.Undoubtedly, Calixa is a loving and caring mother that worries about the whereabouts of herfamily. However, she is also a woman that goes against the mainstream of society, and she triesto internalize and enjoy all possible aspects of live. This is the base of the pursuit of happinessthat not even her family restricts. Calixa did not feel any type of guilt when she had sex with Alcée. The narrator shows her enjoyment, “and the roar of the element made her laugh as she layin his arms.” Likewise, when Alcée leaves , they both feel happy and fulfilled without worrying about giving themselves to their inner lusty desires: “Calixa, on the gallery, watched Alcée ride away. He turned and smiled at her with a beaming face; and she lifted her pretty chin in the airand lau ghed aloud.” These lines prove that Calixa felt good about what had just happened and happy because she was satisfying her desire for living, experimenting, and experiencing her ownwomanhood. Additionally, when her husband and son finally return, Calixa feels no regret at allabout the events just happened. On the contrary, she is in a better mood and pays more attentionto her husband and son than to any sort of repentance: “when the three seated themselves at the table, they laughed much and so loud that anyone might have heard them as far away as Laballiere’s.” Contrary to what society’s prejudices may impose in her life, Calixa and her  family seem to enjoy a nice evening resting importance to the previous events; almost as if thatwas not the first time it happened. This also appears to be normal to Calixa in the sense that this  Torres, D. 4 is not a relevant event but something normal in her daily life. In a society used to restrict womantheir own sexuality, and pursuit of happiness, this representation may be shocking.Finally, from Chopin’s point of view, Calixa is not only depicted as a woman sexually free and happy, but she is also at the same level of men during a time when women were clearly nothing else than “imperfect men.” When the narrator describes the sexual intercourse betweenCalixa and Alcée, Calixa is not presented as the common submissive woman that the male makeslove to, but as a woman who also enjoys taking control of her sexuality and the act of sex. This isevident in the way the narrator desc ribes the sex act as a “tennis game” where Calixa also takesan active role: “With one hand, she clasped his head, her lips lightly touching his forehead. Theother hand stroke with a soothing rhythm his muscular shoulders.” Besides, Calixa is not only in control of her sexuality, but also in control of her life, family, and house. When Bobinot and Bibifinally arrive home, Bobinot is terribly afraid of what Calixa will say about their wet clothes: “ Then, prepared for the worst  –  the meeting with and over-scrupulous housewife, they entered cautiously at the back door.” In a “normal” society, Calixa should be the one ashamed of her acts and her adultery whereas Bobinot should just come in, take off his clothes, and tell his maid toclean them while he takes a shower or eats something. Instead, Calixa is the one who constantlyasks for an explanation to the point that Bobinot already knew the bad consequences of hisarrival. This is a clear depiction of women in a role that was very uncommon to them during thattime; a role where she gives and receives equally from society and family. As seen, “The Storm” more than a light story about a woman’s affair, is a masterpiece that screams for women ’s rights in society. Through some shocking events for the late XIX century society (and possibly for today’s society too), Kate Chopin deconstructs the soci al rolesof women as a housewives, sexual objects, and servants of everybody but themselves into a new
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