The Awakening and Selected Stories
“The Storm” by Kate Chopin was written in 1898, but it did not appear in print in Chopin’s lifetime; it was published for the first time in 1969. “The Storm’s” explicit depiction of adultery ran counter to social morays at the time and scholars speculate the story’s sexual theme kept the story from finding a publisher in her life time. Chopin is now considered by some to have been a forerunner of feminist authors of the 20th Century.
In “The Storm” we see a woman Calixta, who tries to conform to the societal norm of marriage, but finds another means to fulfill her sexual desire with an old beau, also married, and they indulge in a brief assignation in which they discover passion absent from their marriages. Chopin illustrates the sexual restraint of the time in her story’s title–the weather and sexual tension build throughout the story.
Chopin wrote two short story collections, BAYOU FOLK and A NIGHT IN ACADIE, and her stories were published in popular magazines, including Atlantic Monthly and The Century. Chopin was almost universally condemned for the publication of her second novel, The Awakening–which went on to become an American classic and is often included on required reading lists for literary courses. It is considered a benchmark for the transition of American women writers from the themes of romance and contented domesticity to the exploration of women’s emotional and sexual themes. It is ironic, too, that the publication of The Awakening, certainly her highest artistic achievement as a novelist, would effectively end Kate Chopin’s literary career and place her, now recognized as one of the most important of American women novelists, in obscurity for almost half a century.
Chopin did not begin to write until the age of 39, and then wrote most of her stories over a ten-year span. Kate Chopin was, as one of her most famous characters, Mademoiselle Reisz, stated, “The artist who dares and defies.”