Kate Chopin, the author of the short stories, "The Storm" and "Story of an Hour," was a tremendously forward-thinking and feminist author - in both of these tales, marriage is viewed as a restrictive hold on the women who are the subjects of each story. In "The Storm," the desperate Calixta temporarily frees herself of her stifling marriage by engaging in a passionate love affair with a paramour from her past who finds himself in her house in the wake of a nasty storm. Meanwhile, in "Story of an Hour," a woman discovers that her husband has passed away, and starts to have fantasies about the carefree life she can have before learning that he is alive after all. Both of these stories demonstrate Chopin’s progressive ideas of feminism and women’s rights, pointing out the patriarchal and suffocating lives Victorian women had to endure, leading them to find comfort in infidelity or gratefulness over the possible deaths of their husband.
In “The Storm,” Calixta, a patient, quiet wife, is stuck in a torrential storm that keeps her in the house, while her husband is away. The raw, primal attributes of the storm that surrounds her house lead Calixta to begin asserting herself and welcoming the eroticism that has been gone for nearly her entire married life. The storm turns into a metaphor for her affair, and the potential fallout it would have on her marriage and the town. As the storm causes damage to the town, so does the affair hurt her marriage, alluding to the intensity and pure expression of her affair with Alcee – “The rain beat upon the low, shingled roof with a force and clatter that threatened to break an entrance and deluge them there” (Chopin, 1984). Chopin uses this rough language to liken this inclement weather to a particularly passionate sexual experience; the downpour Calixta was about to feel was her lust for Alcee, and a desire to be a young, attractive and sexual woman once more. As Calixta and Alcee make love, they seem to ignore the storm as it crashes around them: “They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms” (Chopin). The crashing of the storm is intended to be meaningless compared to the utter erotic satisfaction Calixta gleans out of having sex with Alcee; the links between the force of nature and the passion of her affair with a former flame are very clear. Their intercourse even goes a bit past the end of the storm - “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” (Chopin). This scene shows Chopin’s belief that Victorian women desire to be sexual beings, and it puts away the concept that forcing Victorian women to stay home keeps them from asserting themselves.
In "The Storm," the chief conflict is the uncertain link of need and fidelity. This is shown by the emotional conflict of whether or not Calixta should have sex with Alcee. They do have a sexual past, and Calixta does hate her marriage; Alcee is implied to also be in an unhappy relationship. They are already intimately familiar, and the scene of the storm offers a fairly romantic and turbulent scenario in which to relieve that sexual tension. This internal struggle with Calixta about what to do with Alcee is echoed by the external struggles. First, Alcee and his wife Clarisse are at a crosswords, as Alcee wants to cheat on her. Calixta and Alcee also have a question about whether to help each other commit infidelity. This demonstrates that Chopin’s view of marriage is one that is unable to make anyone happy, even men, demonstrating the same type of glib perspective that Chopin shares in some of her other works.
In "Story of an Hour," Louise Mallard, a woman "afflicted with a heart trouble" discovers at the start of the story that her husband has passed away. The story showcases the arc of her feelings, shifting from shock and dismay to a sense of freedom, as she seems to be relieved that she no longer has to deal with the responsibilities of being a wife. Soon after realizing her husband is dead, she overcomes her sadness and sorrow to realize the possibilities that would come to her as a result of her newfound freedom: "There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature" (Chopin, 1894). An extremely controversial tale when it first came out, Chopin's tale (like “The Storm”) addresses the possibility of women being able to separate themselves from their male counterparts and live without marriage.
Chopin offers a third-person perspective in both her stories, to allow the readers to look at the story from a dispassionate distance. In “Story of an Hour,” she views from outside the concerns of both Mrs. Mallard and Josephine, in addition to those of Victorian society, as they judge Mallard for her happiness as her husband’s death. This third-person knowledge shows us the concerns of everyone in the tale, in addition to what motivates them. This appears to match Mallard’s thoughts, in which external forces of society place their will on her and leave her without freedom. By looking into these thoughts, appreciating both the hesitation of Josephine to inform Mallard, and Mallard's own myriad responses to the death of her husband, Chopin allows the reader to invade Mallard’s privacy just as Victorian society does.
Chopin's attitudes were in no way indicative of the attitudes of everyone else toward marriage in the Victorian era - to most, marriage stayed the smart, Christian step in life they were expected to go through. This is the reason Chopin’s perspective, shown through her stories, was so controversial - she deigned to claim that marriage was not the end goal of womanhood, and that women might wish to live independent of a man’s control. In both “The Storm” and “The Story of an Hour,” women assert their agency by betraying their husbands in some way, which is framed as the only way in which they can have any sort of freedom in the stifling Victorian era. Today, this perspective is much more common, with marriage becoming much less important in the grand scheme of things, and quite a few trying for marriage just to get divorced, which still carries a stigma of its own. It is with the assistance of authors like Chopin that this perspective toward marriage and a woman’s place in it has sprung forth, freeing people from the pressure of getting hitched no matter how they feel about their partner.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” American Literature Since the Civil War. Create edition.
Ward, Candace, and Kate Chopin. "The Storm." Great short stories by American women. Dover ed. New York: Dover Publications, 1996. 89. Print.