Study Guide

The Storm Themes

  • Sex

    "The Storm" is risqué by any generation's standards, but particularly for the time it was written, at the end of the 19th century. With one exception, the characters are all sexualized, mature, knowing adults. By discovering amazing sex outside their marriages, Calixta and Alcée return to those marriages renewed. Surprisingly, the author seems to condone the adultery. The characters aren't punished, and in the end "every one was happy." Fresh sexuality and desire stomps through their lives just like the storm rages through a single day. Even though it doesn't leave any tangible evidence behind, its effects will linger.

    Questions About Sex

    1. In what ways does this story seem explicit? Are there elements in it besides its sexuality that seem shocking?
    2. What kind of lover is Alcée?
    3. What different attitudes do the characters seem to have towards sex, as opposed to love? Do they treat sex and love the same or differently?
    4. Do you think Calixta feels guilty about having sex with Alcée? Why or why not?
    5. Why do you think Calixta only becomes scared of the storm after Alcée's arrival at her home?
    6. Do you think Alcée has any ulterior motives when he writes to his wife at the end of the story? If so, what are they?

    Chew on This

    For Chopin, love and sexual desire are not the same thing.

    In "The Storm," a good sexual relationship is essential to a happy marriage.

  • Women and Femininity

    "The Storm" showcases two similar yet different wives and mothers. Both are involved with the same man, both seem invested in caring for their families, and both dream of the time, not so long ago, when they were single and free. Both seek fulfillment away from their husbands: one finds pleasure in sexuality, while the other finds relief in its absence. The portraits of these two women remind us of each woman's individuality while simultaneously underscoring the traditional, domestic position of late 19th century femininity. In other words, even though a lot of women were stuck in the same domestic rut during this time, that didn't mean they were all the same, like Stepford wives.

    Questions About Women and Femininity

    1. What do you make of the fact that Calixta seems to reclaim her "maidenhood" by being with Alcée, while Clarisse seems to reclaim it by being free of him?
    2. Based on the descriptions of Calixta's and Clarisse's lives, what do you think it would have been like to be a wife and mother during the time period of "The Storm"?
    3. What role does sexuality play in defining Calixta and Clarisse as women?
    4. What connection does this story seem to be making between being a mother, a lover, and a wife?

    Chew on This

    Both women feel stifled by their marriages and long to once again be single and free.

    Even though she is both a wife and mother, Calixta feels the most feminine when conducting her brief affair with Alcée.

  • Marriage

    We're often taught that cheating is wrong – on a test, in a marriage, whatever. We think of it as being dishonest, or as a kind of sin. "The Storm" is not so black and white, though. Yes, Calixta and Alcée cheat on their spouses by having an affair and act as if nothing happened, but afterwards they seem to be kinder and sweeter to their spouses. Their hypocrisy seems to help strengthen their marriages rather than destroying them.

    Questions About Marriage

    1. Does Calixta and Alcée's affair improve or damage their marriages? Or does it have no impact at all?
    2. This story has two characters who commit adultery and two characters who are cheated on. Of all four, who (if any) do you feel the most pity for, and why?
    3. What kind of relationship do you think Bobinôt and Calixta have? What about Alcée and Clarisse? Do these couples have happy marriages?

    Chew on This

    Because neither Calixta nor Alcée reveal their affair to their respective spouses, no damage is done to either of their marriages. It's as if the affair had never happened.

    Even though Calixta and Alcée cheat, the act of cheating makes them kinder to each of their spouses. In this way, everyone benefits from what might otherwise be considered a sin.

    While everyone seems "happy" at the end of "The Storm," the affair and its aftermath reveals the deep-rooted problems in the marriages of both couples.

  • Man and the Natural World

    In "The Storm," the people and the world around them are experiencing the same brief, exciting, and dangerous event: the storm. Calixta and Alcée experience it differently than the others; for them, the storm heightens the danger and excitement of their adultery. When the storm is over, the natural world recovers. Similarly, when the lovers are finished, they part ways and return to their spouses.

    Questions About Man and the Natural World

    1. Many critics have suggested that the storm is equivalent to the tempestuous sexual encounter between Calixta and Alcée (here's an example). What do you think the storm represents for characters like Bibi and Bobinôt?
    2. In what ways does the storm mimic the emotions and actions of the characters? In what ways does it seem to be the opposite of them?
    3. How is Clarisse affected by the storm?

    Chew on This

    The storm mirrors Alcée and Calixta's affair: both are brief, intense, and dangerous in their own ways, but neither involves any permanent damage.