by Kate Chopin
Where It All Goes Down
Bobinôt and Calixta's house, Louisiana
This story takes place in the small town in Louisiana where all the characters live. A small fraction of the action takes place at Friedheimer's store, Alcée's house, and the house where Clarisse is vacationing, but the most important setting is Calixta and Bobinôt's home – when Bobinôt is not there. Instead, another man comes into his domestic space and literally takes his place in the bedroom, having sex with his wife. Alcée and Calixta are not only trapped in the house during the storm, they almost seem forced into the bedroom – pushed into each other's arms and then onto the bed.
The home itself isn't described that much: it has a "small front gallery" (porch) (2.2), a room that is "the dining room – the sitting room – the general utility room" (2.8), and a bedroom that holds a "white, monumental bed" and looked "dim and mysterious" (2.8). The house gives Alcée and Calixta shelter during that storm and allows them to be together. The storm almost seems to have more of a presence than the house.
One thing that stands out here, of course, is the fact that the storm is taking place during the important sexualized scene, keeping Alcée and Calixta within the house, and Bobinôt and Bibi outside of it. When the storm dissipates, Alcée and Calixta must go their separate ways, seemingly much richer for their encounter. When Bobinôt reenters his own home, he has no idea of the torrid encounter that just happened there. Clarisse, too, is removed from the main area of action – she's in another state.
On a larger scale, the setting reminds us of the characters' places in the world. As the Kate Chopin International Society's site points out, there are some subtle class differences between the four main characters represented in "The Storm":
Alcée and his wife Clarisse are Creoles, descendants of French settlers in Louisiana. Calixta and her husband Bobinôt are Acadians, descendants of French-American exiles from Acadia, Nova Scotia. (source)
Even though they all shared French ancestry, the Creoles and Acadians maintained strict social boundaries and class differences during this time. The Creole characters, Alcée and Clarisse, are of a higher class than the Acadians, Calixta and Bobinôt. Yet Calixta and Bobinôt aren't doing so badly: they can still afford their own home. We know it's most likely not as grand as Clarisse and Alcée's, but they make enough money to have their own space and to employ a maid.
You can see these class differences in the way the characters speak and the way their thoughts are represented in the narrative. (Psst. For more on that, check out our section "Narrator Point of View," then come back). For example, the story's conversations are rich in period-accurate dialect. Calixta and Bobinôt talk like the "'Cadians" (Acadians) who lived in Louisiana during the 1890s would have (source). Their language is a rich combination of French and English. By contrast, Alcée uses less dialect than they do. When he speaks in this story, he does so in more formal English, even though he understands Calixta's French.
So the way Chopin's characters speak reveals a lot about them and their relationships with the other characters. Each time Chopin's characters open their mouths, readers are reminded of where they came from, what their class standing was, and how they fit into 19th century Louisiana society.
Want to learn more about the setting? Check out "At the 'Cadian Ball," Chopin's prequel to "The Storm."