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Diego Torres Moreno Hilda Gairaud LM-1486 06 October 2009

A Shocking Short Story in a Conservative Society The role of women in society has always been a difficult one. Women have had to struggle for their rights throughout history in order to be recognized as equal to men. The XIX century was not an exception to this situation, and society considered women just a rib of men, 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. Through these 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 womens rights and their pursuit of happiness. Their main obstacle was to obtain the attention of the audience (mostly composed by men). As Annette Kolodny explains, In order to tell and write herstory, (story from a womans 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 increasing awareness of womens reality in society, many female authors started to build new approaches of the same every-day situations from a womans point of view. Kate Chopin was one of these many authors whose literary works are charged with strong traits of feminism; all with the purpose of deconstructing the current view of society towards women. The Storm is a short

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story that embodies this claim for a new understanding of womanhood in a strong patriarchal society. That is, Kate Chopins 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 . 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 were allowed to experience sexual desire. Calixta is a homemaker who takes advantage of the storm as well as her strong feelings for Alce 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 her clothing represents the prelude for the events to happen. It also symbolizes her predisposition to enjoy her body and her inner sexual needs. Moreover, Calixa does not hesitate to wish the best for her family, but also to wish for them to not arrive home so she can make love with Alce: theres Bobinot with Bibi out in the storm - if he only didnt left Freidheimers! Instead of wishing for her family to arrive home, Calixa hopes for them to stay at the store. This is an unconscious preparation for what is to come. At the beginning of the storm, Calixa is hesitant about her engaging in sexual intercourse with Alce, probably due to many social constraints society has imposed on her throughout her years as an angel in the house. Fortunately, she detaches 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 that unconsciously betrayed a sensuous of desire. Furthermore, Calixa not only favors and agrees to her sexuality, but she is also depicted by Chopin as extremely excited with lips free to be tasted. Calixas excitement is also interpreted as her lack of guilt when committing adultery and

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the pursuit of her sexual pleasure above everything else; a very uncommon and highly judged attitude 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 the aspects 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 her family. However, she is also a woman that goes against the mainstream of society, and she tries to internalize and enjoy all possible aspects of live. This is the base of the pursuit of happiness that not even her family restricts. Calixa did not feel any type of guilt when she had sex with Alce. The narrator shows her enjoyment, and the roar of the element made her laugh as she lay in his arms. Likewise, when Alce leaves, they both feel happy and fulfilled without worrying about giving themselves to their inner lusty desires: Calixa, on the gallery, watched Alce ride away. He turned and smiled at her with a beaming face; and she lifted her pretty chin in the air and laughed 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 own womanhood. Additionally, when her husband and son finally return, Calixa feels no regret at all about the events just happened. On the contrary, she is in a better mood and pays more attention to 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 Laballieres. Contrary to what societys 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 that was not the first time it happened. This also appears to be normal to Calixa in the sense that this

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is not a relevant event but something normal in her daily life. In a society used to restrict woman their own sexuality, and pursuit of happiness, this representation may be shocking. Finally, from Chopins 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 between Calixa and Alce, Calixa is not presented as the common submissive woman that the male makes love to, but as a woman who also enjoys taking control of her sexuality and the act of sex. This is evident in the way the narrator describes the sex act as a tennis game where Calixa also takes an active role: With one hand, she clasped his head, her lips lightly touching his forehead. The other 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 Bibi finally 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 to clean them while he takes a shower or eats something. Instead, Calixa is the one who constantly asks for an explanation to the point that Bobinot already knew the bad consequences of his arrival. This is a clear depiction of women in a role that was very uncommon to them during that time; a role where she gives and receives equally from society and family. As seen, The Storm more than a light story about a womans affair, is a masterpiece that screams for womens rights in society. Through some shocking events for the late XIX century society (and possibly for todays society too), Kate Chopin deconstructs the social roles of women as a housewives, sexual objects, and servants of everybody but themselves into a new

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class of women in which their personal happiness is above all. Happiness that may be achieved through sexuality, family life, or any other necessary means where an equality of women helps them to fulfill their desires. In a late XIX century society used to judge women as inferior, this short story possibly represented a shock because it unveils womens true nature: the same nature of men, the one of following their instincts in order to be happy.

Works Cited Chopin, Kate. The Awakening and Selected Stories of Kate Chopin. New York. Signet Classics, 1976. Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Heaven, CT: Yale UP, 1979. Kolodny, Annette. Some Notes on Defining a Feminist Literary Criticism. Critical Inquiry 2 (1975): 75-92.