Following the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines
Kate Chopin is known best for her lyrical writing, as well as the metaphors within her stories. Freedom and longing are often represented by windows and clear skies. The weather can also have a significant meaning in her work. Women often desire something so badly they come close to death, or die at the end of her stories. More obviously are the struggles the characters go through with Chopin’s tales. For example, a common theme shared between Chopin’s, “The Storm,” and, “Story of an Hour,” is the desire for change. While there are many other themes present throughout each story, the characters in each of these tales show a desire for change within their boring mundane lives that could be unparalleled when weighed against anything else they desire. Various things have caused the women in each story to want change in their lives, different change for different things. The desire is the same, though they respond to it in different ways.
“The Storm,” is a complex story of love, lust, and nostalgia, it also features the desire for change, primarily within the characters Calixta, and her ex-boyfriend, Alcee. Calixta’s husband and son wait out a violent storm in a Louisiana store while she stays at home to care for things. Alcee happens to wander by her house during the storm and seeks shelter. Alcee sees she has gained weight but lost, “none of her vivacity,” while Calixta seems nervous in Alcee’s presences as she cleans the home while he waits out the storm. She is married and has a child, but the entrance of Alcee reminds her of what her life may have been had she not settled with her husband. As the storm wears on, and Calixta even frets over her missing family, the two ex-lovers find themselves drawn to one another. Eventually Alcee asks, “Do you remember, in Assumption, Calixta,” and this memory reignites thoughts of passion to two once had, and still have for one another. They re-consummate their relationship, though Calixta acts faithful to her husband when he returns, bedding her desire to change now that the storm has passed.
“Story of an Hour,” showcases Mrs. Mallard, a profoundly misunderstood woman with heart trouble. She spends most of her day staring out of a window into a patch of blue sky, wishing she could escape her marriage as she whispered, “Free, free, free!” to herself . Her burdening dedication to her marriage has grown into spiteful resignation, though from the outside people believe her to be a doting wife. Her husband is thought to be dead in a car accident and, due to her believed love and her heart condition, she is approached carefully with the news. Overjoyed with the thought of freedom from her marriage, she is immediately carried away by a wave of rapture. “Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own,” are where her thoughts truly lie when she learns the news of her husband’s death . The death, however, turns out to be a mistake. Her husband returns, leaving Mrs. Mallard to feel the painful suffocation of marriage once more. She suffers a heart attack, dying in the room that had become her prison. Those around her surmised she had died from happiness, her husband having returned home. In truth, she had died from a broken heart, her chance for change and freedom having been snatched away from her.
The women in each story were desperate for change in their own way. There are slight differences. For example, Calixta appears only bored, and looking for a relatively simply shake-up to her typical routine. The unexpected arrival of Alcee reminds her of her once vivacious, spontaneous self, when she and her ex-boyfriend were full of passion and excitement. The reality that she and her husband are not like this has made her feel boring and old. However, when the storm passes and he and the boy return, Calixta remains committed to her husband, not running away with Alcee or telling her husband of the affair. The fact the affair happened, however, is admission that Calixta desires a change and is profoundly unhappy with her life and marriage . “Story of an Hour’s,” Mrs. Mallard is desperate for change in a less obvious but direr way. She is so desperate for freedom from what she considers an oppressive marriage she spends her days sitting in a chair facing an open window, allowing herself to dream of freedom and a life without her husband. She is overjoyed at the thought of his death and her freedom, so overjoyed she needs a moment alone. The change is invigorating, she feels her illness fade. When her husband’s death is a mistake, and she realizes her freedom was nothing more than a joke, she is so distraught the stress causes her heart condition to kill her . Mrs. Mallard was so desperate for change when it was taken away she died.
In sum, both of the women in these stories desired a change of pace. Calixta merely wanted a little excitement. She was reminded of this when confronted with a person from her past. Thus, she used this person from her past to fill this void. Mrs. Mallard, suffocated by a trivial and unfulfilling marriage, spent her days wishing she could live alone, doing as she pleased. The sense of change she feels when her husband dies and she realizes she is free is overwhelming. We know she does truly desire change because the impact of it being taken away kills her. Though the women wanted change in different ways, and in entirely different capacities, they still came to the same basic realizations. Desiring a change in one’s life is a relatable feeling, whether it is desiring a change to one’s schedule or actions, or facilitating a complete change to an individual’s life, Calixta and Mrs. Mallard understood sometimes it takes change in order to be happy.
Chopin, K. (1999). Story of an Hour. In K. Chopin, Complete Collection (pp. 50-56). Chicago: Penguin.
Chopin, K. (1999). The Storm. In K. Chopin, Complete Collection (pp. 98-105). Chicago: Penguin.