by Kate Chopin
As discussed in the "Character Roles" section, Calixta is as close as we get to a protagonist or main character for this story. Yet, like all the other characters in this story, she appears for only a few pages. Although the main chunk of text comes from her point of view, we still see only an eensy sliver of her life. There just isn't time to see more. But it's the sliver that Chopin has selected that's so interesting.
So in this sliver of Calixta's life, we learn many things. First off, she's a proud housekeeper. She works hard to take care of her home: sewing, doing laundry, cleaning, and making coffee and supper. She's super obsessed with keeping the house clean: we can tell that from Bobinôt's worry in Section 4 that he and Bibi will drag mud into the house and that Calixta will be mad. Even though she has help come in sometimes (Bibi and Bobinôt mention their maid Sylvie), Calixta does a good deal of work at home.
We also know that Calixta is very pretty and that even though it's been more than five years since she and Alcée had their fling, she still looks good:
She was a little fuller of figure than five years before when she married; but she had lost nothing of her vivacity. Her blue eyes still retained their melting quality; and her yellow hair, disheveled by the wind and rain, kinked more stubbornly than ever about her ears and temples. (2.7)
She's more thoroughly described, physically, than any other character in the story. She sounds beautiful, vivid, and lively. Marriage seems to have brought her into perspective, to have grounded her in reality. At the same time, she hasn't lost the qualities that make her interesting and attractive – the qualities that still have the power to attract Alcée (and, presumably, Bobinôt).
What else? Aside from her fling, Calixta seems to be a good wife and mother. She's worried about Bibi and Bobinôt being safe during the storm. Conveniently (perhaps too conveniently) that worry causes her to freak out and fall into Alcée's arms.
Calixta presumably still has fond feelings for her ex-boyfriend. She gets all excited when she sees him come into her yard and can barely contain herself once he enters the house. Soon after Alcée comes in, she ends up having the best sex of her life. Their encounter seems to be everything she could have imagined years before when they were going out. (Want to know more about this? Of course you do. Check out our section on "Themes: Sex.")
It seems like Calixta loves Bobinôt. She's worried for his safety when he's out in the storm, super relieved when he and Bibi return unharmed, and nearly ecstatic when presented with the shrimps he brought her. She seems to be making a real effort to maintain a happy family life.
But is it genuine enthusiasm, or an effort? Is she feeling guilty? Think about the way she almost performed her relief when Bibi and Bobinôt returned home: "[s]he sprang up as they came in" (3.4), "clasped Bibi and was kissing him effusively" (3.5), and "gave [Bobinôt] a smacking kiss on the cheek that resounded" (3.7). Then, at dinner, "when the three seated themselves at table they laughed much and so loud that anyone might have heard them as far away as Laballière's" (3.8).
Laballière's is Alcée's place, so, presumably, Alcée might almost be able to hear their laughter. What message is that sending at the end – that Calixta has been untouched emotionally by their encounter? That she wants to emphasize how much she still cares for her husband and family? It seems undeniable that being with Alcée altered Calixta. When Alcée rode off, she "lifted her pretty chin in the air and laughed aloud" (3.1). Their time together seems to have made her "vivacity" even more vivid. It's like he restored her, maybe to a self she didn't even know was there.