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The Storm By McKnight Malmar Presentation By:

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1 The Storm By McKnight Malmar Presentation By:
Melissa Mikelski, Sara Lachner, Alison Tomchik, Heather Dopke

2 Summary of Story   The Storm is a short story that illustrates a middleclass woman’s struggle with her relationship with herself as well as her husband. The story opens in a rural or suburban neighborhood. Janet, the protagonist, comes home from a visit with her sister expecting to find her beloved husband in their cozy home, anxiously awaiting her return. Instead, and much to her disappointment, Janet arrives at her home on a dreary, stormy night to a cold and empty house. She surmises that her husband Ben is working late in the city and has missed the train to the suburbs. While Janet finds logic in this supposition, she also longs for Ben. As the storm grows more fearsome, Janet’s anxieties heighten. She catches a glimpse of a face in the window, and for hours agonizes over whether or not there really is a prowler outside of her home. This causes Janet to become even more paranoid. After deliberating over the face in the window, she decides she won’t be able to sleep that night and that she should at least calm down. Janet thought building a fire in the fireplace would help ease her nerves. Janet ventures into the damp cellar for firewood. While she is down there, she felt a new wave of fear and anxiety. She imagines that she hears footsteps of the prowler outside, and is mortified when she sees that the bolt of the outside door to the cellar is open. As she is about to leave the cellar with a bundle of kindling, she notices an odd glint of light coming from her old trunk. It was open, but Janet was positive the trunk had been locked. She threw back the lid and found the body of a murdered woman lying in the trunk.

3 (Summary Continued) Janet ran back upstairs, hysterical, and waited for Ben to return home. A few hours later, Ben did arrive, dripping wet from the storm. He was complacent, and didn’t recognize the great anxiety that possessed his wife. Only after repeated implorations on Janet’s part did Ben venture into the cellar to investigate the trunk. After a few moments, Ben called Janet down to the cellar to show her that there was nothing in the trunk. The rest of the story is left up to interpretation. When Janet came into the cellar to see the empty trunk, Ben could have lunged at Janet in an effort to kill her to cover up the fact that the woman Janet saw in the trunk was a woman Ben had murdered. Or, the woman Janet saw was imagined in her extreme state of anxiety, as were Ben’s murderous actions.

4 Character Descriptions
Janet Janet is the main character. She returns home early from a visit to her ill sister, hoping to surprise her husband. Janet is thirty-one years old, has been married for fifteen months, and is ten years younger than her husband. She relies on her husband for strength and protection, and finds comfort in the familiar. She is trusting and somewhat naïve, as well as lonely. She is uncomfortable being alone in the house, especially during the storm. Janet wants Ben to come make everything better, but she never suspects him. Malmar describes Janet, saying: “There was something childlike about her, like a small girl craving protection, something immature and yet appealing, in spite of her plainness…The fact that she had married at all still seemed a miracle to her.”

5 (Characters Continued)
Ben Ben is Janet’s husband. He is ten years older than Janet, and works in Chicago. He gets mysterious letters from New York that may be love letters from a mistress. In the end, it is revealed that he killed a woman (his mistress?). Ben seems very detached; he does not return the love and trust that Janet gives him. He married her because it was what he was supposed to do, and now he has a pretty young thing around the house. He is very conscious of his role as Janet’s older protector, and refers to her as “You poor child”. In the end, when Janet starts to realize what has happened, Ben loses his loving, protective attitude. “His voice was odd, not like Ben’s at all. It had a cold cutting edge to it…He stood looking down at her with an immobility that chilled her…his voice hardened. ‘What was it you thought?’”

6 Purpose The main theme of “The Storm” is an individual should not settle for a life that does not make him or her happy. Throughout the story, Janet insists that she is content with the life she shares with Ben, but it is obvious that she is not. This is seen in the following passage: “But he was a good husband. She sighed unconsciously, not knowing it was because of youth and romance missed. She repeated it to herself, firmly, as she sipped her coffee. He was a good husband. Suppose he was ten years older than she, and a little set in his ways; a little – perhaps – dictatorial at times, and moody. He had given her what she thought she wanted, security and a home of her own; if security were not enough, she could not blame him for it.” In this passage, Janet expresses her regret and unhappiness, but rationalizes to herself that she is wrong and should be happy with what she has. Underlying this theme is the idea that women are supposed to want a domestic life; a hard-working husband, a home, and nothing more. Janet felt guilty for not accepting this standard. The author uses her to show that we do not have to force ourselves to play the roles society sets for us; rather, we should do what makes us happy regardless of what is expected. Another theme is the idea that no event is isolated; each thing that happens is a small part of a larger chain of events. This idea comes to Janet with the following: “Slowly something beyond the mere fact of murder, of death, began to penetrate her mind. Slowly she realized that beyond this fact there would be consequences. That body in the cellar was not an isolated phenomenon; some train of events had led to its being there and would follow its discovery there.” The author’s message here is that with each event that happens, we need to consider what happened before and what will happen after to truly understand and analyze the situation.

7 Techniques Used to Portray Theme
Symbolism The most prominent symbol Malmar uses to get his purpose across is the storm itself. The storm symbolizes the outside world. Janet is terrified of the storm through most of the story because she fears what may happen to her if she goes out into it. This is seen in the following: “She was rigid for a long time,never taking her eyes from the window. But nothing moved there now except the water on the windowpane; beyond it there was blackness, and that was all. The only sounds were the thrashing of the trees, the roar of water, and the ominous howl of the wind.” Until the end of the story, Janet finds comfort from the storm in the house and in the thought that Ben will soon be home. The house represents the life that she has. As Janet’s character develops, however, the symbols of the storm and the house switch meanings. Character Development The meanings of the symbols correspond to Janet’s development as a character. In the beginning and throughout most of the story, she finds safety in the house (her life) and fear in the storm (the outside world). At the end, though, she finally realizes that her life is not as good as she made herself believe, and she knows that she must face her fears and go out into the world alone. The very last line of the story reads: “The blessed wind snatched the front door from her and flung it wide, and she was out in the safe, dark shelter of the storm.” Janet has finally come to see what Malmar intended to make the reader see; that we must not resign ourselves to an unhappy life. We need to remove all fear of the unknown when we no longer find safety in what we have, and go out into the “storm”. It is only then that we can begin to make our lives our own.

8 Unique Characteristics
Style Malmar uses stylistic techniques to draw the reader into Janet’s experience. The fear she feels becomes real through the imagery and personification of the storm. For example: “The wind’s shout took on a personal, threatening note.” The life given to the wind makes it seem even more ferocious, as if it were another evil threat outside of Janet’s home trying to break in to hurt her. The way Malmar describes how Janet moves through the house and the things that frighten her employ such precise imagery that it is easy for the reader to become swept up in emotion: “The darkness was a wall, impenetrable and secret, and the blackness within the house made the storm close in, as if it were a pack of wolves besieging the house. She hastened to put on the light again. She must have imagined those staring eyes. Nobody could be out on a night like this. Nobody.” A reader can easily imagine being home alone on dark and stormy night as described in the story. One can relate to the isolation Janet felt in the darkness, and how one might rationalize his fears.

9 Review & Discussion Questions
1.What was the significance of the storm to the story? How did it portray the emotions of the main character? How did it change from the beginning of the story until the end? 2. Was Janet really afraid of the storm and the face outside? Or was she more afraid because she was alone? Support your answer. 3.What emotions did Janet have when she found the body? Did she suspect anyone of the murder? 4. What significance did Janet’s wearing of Ben’s coat have to the story? How did it represent her feelings toward Ben? 5. How did Janet’s emotion toward Ben change from his arrival until she ran away from him? 6. What was the significance of the letters in the story? Why do you think that they bothered Ben so much? & bjbj

10 A.P. Question Her old trunk had held the curled-up body of a woman.
She had not seen the face; the head had been tucked down into the hollow of the shoulder, and a shower of fair hair ha fallen over it. The woman had worn a red dress. One hand had rested near the edge of the trunk, and on its third finger there had been a man’s ring, a signet bearing the raised figure of a rampant lion with a small diamond between its paws. It had been the diamond that caught the light. The little bulb in the corner of the cellar had picked out this ring from the semidarkness and made it stand out like a beacon. She never would be able to forget it. Never forget how the woman looked; the pale, luminous flesh of her arms; her doubled-up knees against the side of the trunk, with their silken covering shining softly in the gloom; the strands of hair that covered her face…. Shudders continued to shake her. She bit her tongue and pressed her hand against her jaw to stop the chattering of her teeth. The salty taste of blood in her mouth steadied her. She tried to force herself to be rational, to plan; yet all the time the knowledge that she was imprisoned with the body of a murdered woman kept beating at her nerves like a flail. She drew the coat closer about her, trying to dispel the mortal cold that held her. Slowly something beyond the mere fact of murder, of death, began to penetrate her mind. Slowly she realized that beyond this fact there would be consequences. That body in the cellar was not an isolated phenomenon; some train of events had led to its being there and would follow its discovery there. Describe how the author used description and imagery to convey the emotions that Janet felt during this excerpt. How did the same description and imagery help to enhance the mood of the story?

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