But she felt very warm and often stopped to mop her face on which the perspiration gathered in beads. She unfastened her white sacque at the throat. (2.1)
This is a prelude of what's to come. Alcée's not even there yet but Calixta already feels hot and bothered. The gathering storm is making her "fe[el] very warm," and she's already sweating and starting to take her clothes off. Out of context, this passage could be taken pretty sexually.
Alcée clasped her shoulders and looked into her face. The contact of her warm, palpitating body when he had unthinkingly drawn her into his arms, had aroused all the old-time infatuation and desire for her flesh. (2.16)
Calixta's body reminds Alcée of the old days and the way he used to feel while holding her. There are lots of words here we could focus on, but let's go with "unthinkingly." Alcée is <em>not</em> thinking, at least not with his head. The body is totally in charge here.
Oh! she remembered; for in Assumption he had kissed her and kissed and kissed her; until his senses would well nigh fail, and to save her he would resort to a desperate flight. If she was not an immaculate dove in those days, she was still inviolate; a passionate creature whose very defenselessness had made her defense, against which his honor forbade him to prevail. Now – well, now – her lips seemed in a manner free to be tasted, as well as her round, white throat and her whiter breasts. (2.18)
Consider here how all these different languages – of imprisonment and freedom, love and chastity, honor and defense, and purity and violation – are used. In the memory, it's about honor and chastity – the words of courtly love. Calixta is an "inviolate" maiden, and Alcée is "desperate" in his "defense" against her "defenselessness." As that language of honor fades away, it's replaced in the present by much more explicit language about Calixta's body. As her body becomes "free to be tasted," it also becomes free to be described, in terms of her "white throat and her whiter breasts."
She was a revelation in that dim, mysterious chamber; as white as the couch she lay upon. Her firm, elastic flesh that was knowing for the first time its birthright, was like a creamy lily that the sun invites to contribute its breath and perfume to the undying life of the world. (2.19)
While this line is explicitly telling us about the encounter between Calixta and Alcée, it also implicitly sheds light on Calixta's relationship with Bobinôt. It sounds like he's not exactly rocking her world. Think about it – she's been married for several years and has had a kid. It's not like sex is a new experience for her. Yet it's not until she finally has sex with Alcée during the storm that her body "know[s] for the first time its birthright." In other words, her body finally understands the kind of pleasure it can achieve.
"When he touched her breasts they gave themselves up in quivering ecstasy, inviting his lips. Her mouth was a fountain of delight. And when he possessed her, they seemed to swoon together at the very borderland of life's mystery." (2.21)
Calixta's body seems to be taking on a will of its own here, commanding Alcée to caress it. This passage is the most explicit the story gets, but it still cloaks the sexual intercourse behind figurative language. Instead of describing literal action, the narrator hides behind words like "possess[ion]," "swoon[ing]," and the "borderland of life's mystery." There's a euphemism for sex that you don't hear very often.
He was getting on nicely; and though he missed them, he was willing to bear the separation a while longer – realizing that their health and pleasure were the first things to be considered.(4.1)
It's an understatement for Alcée to say that he's "getting on nicely," considering that he just had awesome sex with the woman who got away. He's not just "getting on nicely," he's totally stoked. Still glowing from his recent encounter, he writes to his wife to tell her there's no rush to come home.
. . .the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days. Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while. (5.1)
It's all about reading between the lines here. Clarisse doesn't come right out and say, "I'm over having sex with my husband." She says she's "more than willing to forego" sex, which she cloaks in the idea of being "devoted" to her husband. It's almost like she throws in the devotion part to avoid the real problem – her sexual apathy.
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)
The passage of time has only made Calixta more beautiful and desirable. The narrator moves back and forth here between using positive and negative terms to describe how, despite the ways in which she's changed, Calixta is still essentially the same. Even though she's gotten a "little fuller," she has all the personality she had before, and then some.
Her lips were as red and moist as pomegranate seed. Her white neck and a glimpse of her full, firm bosom disturbed him powerfully. As she glanced up at him the fear in her liquid blue eyes had given place to a drowsy gleam that unconsciously betrayed a sensuous desire. (2.17)
The pomegranate seed could be a reference to Persephone of Greek myth and her trip to the underworld with the king of the dead. While the pomegranate seed unknowingly tempted Persephone into staying in the underworld six months of the year, Calixta's mouth knowingly tempts Alcée into embarking upon a sexual adventure.
If she was not an immaculate dove in those days, she was still inviolate; a passionate creature whose very defenselessness had made her defense, against which his honor forbade him to prevail. Now – well, now – her lips seemed in a manner free to be tasted, as well as her round, white throat and her whiter breasts. (2.18)
The "immaculate dove" could be a reference to the Virgin Mary, but Alcée is careful to say that Calixta was by no means as innocent as Mary would have been. Even so, her femininity was something he wasn't permitted to take for himself. Paradoxically, only when she becomes unavailable to him by marrying another man does she "seem[. . .] free to be tasted."
The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached. (2.20)
Interestingly, Calixta has the kind of power here that in sexual scenes is usually reserved for male characters. Because her "passion" is so "abundan[t]" and powerful, she's the one who "penetrate[s]" Alcée. She reaches inside of him and makes him feel just as deeply as he's made her feel.
As for Clarisse, she was charmed upon receiving her husband's letter. She and the babies were doing well. The society was agreeable; many of her old friends and acquaintances were at the bay. (5.1)
Clarisse seems to be embodying ladylike behavior here. Everything is nice and polite and aboveboard. This couldn't be more different from the sexualized language used to describe the way Calixta feels when she's hanging out with Clarisse's husband. (We discuss this in more detail in "Characters: Clarisse.")
As she stepped outside, Alcée Laballière rode in at the gate. She had not seen him very often since her marriage, and never alone. (2.2)
This tells us a great deal about marriage and society at the time the story is set: it wouldn't be proper for former lovers to hang out much once they'd both married other people. It also shows how intense Calixta and Alcée's relationship must have been. Why else would they avoid each other so assiduously after parting and still feel so strongly for each other five years later?
Then, prepared for the worst – the meeting with an over-scrupulous housewife, they entered cautiously at the back door. (3.1)
Bobinôt thinks "the worst" thing that awaits him is "an over-scrupulous housewife" who's angry about a little mud. This is kind of ironic, considering that something far worse for his marriage just took place under his own roof. Poor Bobinôt. After the afternoon Calixta's had, mud is probably the last thing on her mind.
Bobinôt's explanations and apologies which he had been composing all along the way, died on his lips as Calixta felt him to see if he were dry, and seemed to express nothing but satisfaction at their safe return. (3.5)
It's ironic that Bobinôt has been working so hard to come up with "explanations and apologies" for his actions. Actions like keeping their son safe during the storm, rushing home as soon as possible, and bringing home his wife's favorite food. Obviously it's Calixta, not Bobinôt, who has something to apologize for. But she seems more worried about Bobinôt and Bibi than what she did with Alcée.
"Shrimps! Oh, Bobinôt! you too good fo' anything!" and she gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek that resounded, "J'vous réponds, we'll have a feas' to-night! umph-umph!" (3.7)
By praising Bobinôt and "kiss[ing]" him so loudly, Calixta seems to be overcompensating for cheating on him. Look at the number of quotation marks here. In her relief and excitement about his return (and possibly her guilt over what she's done), she's laying it on a bit thick.
Alcée Laballière wrote to his wife, Clarisse, that night. It was a loving letter, full of tender solicitude. He told her not to hurry back, but if she and the babies liked it at Biloxi, to stay a month longer. He was getting on nicely; and though he missed them, he was willing to bear the separation a while longer – realizing that their health and pleasure were the first things to be considered. (4.1)
Just like Calixta in the preceding quote, Alcée seems to be overcompensating for his guilt here. He writes his wife a note that makes no mention of his infidelity. If anything it seems to present him as a noble self-sacrificer, giving up his time with his wife and children for their own good.
And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days. Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while. (5.1)
Clarisse claims to be "devoted...to her husband" while at the same time explaining that she doesn't mind spending time away from him. You'd expect that if she's so "devoted" she'd be reluctant to stay away longer, or at least have to force herself to put up with it. Instead, she's "more than willing" to take an extended break.
The leaves were so still that even Bibi thought it was going to rain. Bobinôt, who was accustomed to converse on terms of perfect equality with his little son, called the child's attention to certain sombre clouds that were rolling with sinister intention from the west, accompanied by a sullen, threatening roar. (1.1)
The description of the storm sure sounds ominous. It's "still," "somber," "sinister," "sullen," and "threatening." While Bibi's a smart kid, the fact that even a four-year-old can tell that bad weather is on its way means it must be pretty bad indeed.
Calixta, at home, felt no uneasiness for their safety. She sat at a side window sewing furiously on a sewing machine. She was greatly occupied and did not notice the approaching storm. (2.1)
Despite the fact that even Bibi notices the storm approaching, Calixta is totally "occupied" and caught up in what she's doing, "sewing furiously." She's so focused on accomplishing her housewifely duties that she doesn't notice the bad weather that lies ahead, let alone suspect the other storm that's about to rock her world.
She stood there with Bobinôt's coat in her hands, and the big rain drops began to fall. (2.2)
When the storm begins to rage in earnest, Calixta is at home alone. Instead of her husband there to rely on and console her, all she has is his "coat." It's an empty shell that reminds her of him and reflects his shape, but it can't do anything to help her when "the big rain drops beg[i]n to fall."
He expressed an intention to remain outside, but it was soon apparent that he might as well have been out in the open: the water beat in upon the boards in driving sheets, and he went inside, closing the door after him. (2.4)
Social propriety is no match for the natural world here. Alcée would normally stay outside the house, so he and Calixta aren't alone together in her domestic space. But the weather has other plans: with "the water beat[ing] in upon the boards in driving sheets," there's no way he could stay outside. Conveniently, he has to come in to wait out the storm.
The rain beat upon the low, shingled roof with a force and clatter that threatened to break an entrance and deluge them there. (2.8)
The storm is practically personified here, "threaten[ing] to break" in on Alcée and Calixta and "deluge them" in Calixta's own house. Just as the rain didn't respect Alcée's commitment to social propriety, it threatens to follow him into the house where it's not wanted.
She went and stood at the window with a greatly disturbed look on her face. She wiped the frame that was clouded with moisture. It was stiflingly hot. Alcée got up and joined her at the window, looking over her shoulder. The rain was coming down in sheets obscuring the view of far-off cabins and enveloping the distant wood in a gray mist. The playing of the lightning was incessant. A bolt struck a tall chinaberry tree at the edge of the field. It filled all visible space with a blinding glare and the crash seemed to invade the very boards they stood upon. (2.14)
Just in case we didn't realize how hardcore the storm is, here's a reminder. The heat is "stifling." The sky is full of "rain," "mist," and "lightning." The lightning is close, too, since it hits a "tree at the edge of the field" near Calixta's house. This should eliminate any doubt that the characters are overreacting to the storm or that their fear isn't justified.
They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms. (2.19)
Despite the danger of the storm currently raging around them, with its "crashing torrents," the two lovers feel invincible. In fact, the glow of their bond is so great that Calixta can "laugh" at the "roar of the elements" from the safe distance of Alcée's arms. While earlier she escaped his "encircling arms," here she is content to rest there – she feels protected and brave. The "torrents" might sound frightening to someone else, but not to them.
The growl of the thunder was distant and passing away. The rain beat softly upon the shingles, inviting them to drowsiness and sleep. But they dared not yield. (2.21)
Here Calixta and Alcée have to resist their urges to mirror what's happening outside in the natural world. The storm is "passing away," the "rain" has become "soft." The outside world is suggesting that after all the tumult and excitement – both in terms of raging weather and sexual appetite – that they succumb to "drowsiness and sleep." But sleep would put them in even more danger than the storm did: they would risk being discovered.
The rain was over; and the sun was turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems. Calixta, 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 air and laughed aloud. (3.21)
In the afterglow of their sexual encounter and the end of the storm, the whole "world" seems to have changed for Calixta and Alcée. Instead of a scary place full of lightning and "rain," they're looking out into a "glistening green world" that has become "a palace of gems." Calixta and Alcée, too, have been transformed (momentarily at least) into a pair of smiling people who "beam" and "laugh aloud." For a time, they're as beautiful and refreshed as the world around them.
So the storm passed and every one was happy. (5.2)
It's all over. No hard feelings – everything and everyone is fine. This final sentence shows a balance between the natural world, where the storm has concluded, and the human world, where "every one was happy." The storm has broken, and so have Calixta and Alcée's pent-up feelings.