2 Naturalism in “The Storm” “ So the storm passed and every one was happy” (Chopin 143).
3 See Holman and Harmon Handbook for more. Sometimes naturalism is used in exchange for “realism,” but should refer to literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America, France and England.
4 Basics of Naturalism Literary use of Scientific Determinism All that happens is determined by natural forcesOne thing happens, causing another thing, causing the next thing to happen . . .There is no free will; we cannot choose; we just react to natural forces and events.
5 Naturalism's Determinism People's actions are determined byPhysical, mechanical forcesBiological forcesEconomic and social forcesSubconscious (psychological) forcesEnvironmental forces
6 Naturalism gives less attention to Personal responsibilityPersonal freedom or choicePersonal ability to changeThe human soul
7 Chopin's “The Storm” lets us investigate some of these aspects of Naturalism and Realism. The story, and Chopin's other writings, go beyond Naturalism, as she is concerned with characters who seek to break out of their social and environmental circles. “The Storm”, however, is enlightening in its suggestion that natural forces may not be controllable.
8 Look for natural forces The affair is framed by the stormThe rain that tries to force its way under the door (139)The lightning that “filled all visible space with a blinding glare and the crash seemed to invade the very boards they stood upon” (140).
9 Can the two resist? Do they weigh the moral question of the affair? Is the affair planned?What sudden occurrence throws them together? Could it be prevented?
10 A-moral or at least not immoral. The force of the storm, and Chopin's presentation of the affair as sudden, with no time to think or choose, points to the idea that Chopin would say the affair isNaturalInevitableA-moral or at least not immoral.
11 Do you agree that the story is realistic? The story points out that Chopin had an affair after her own husband died. Her writing reflects her belief that affairs are not harmful to marriage. In making this literary argument, Chopin is writing as a Realist as well as a Naturalist.She is challenging traditional belief with what she perceives to be a realistic vision.Do you agree that the story is realistic?
12 FeminismOne reason we might NOT say Chopin is a Naturalist is due to her celebration of women who seek to find their own identity and refuse to conform to the social norms laid out for them.In “The Storm” Calixta is not the typical weak heroine who is swept away, or overpowered by a lover. Instead, she participates in the affair as fully as Alcee, and has no regrets.
13 Or, and here the question will be left for you to answer, Does Chopin believe affairs are natural and inevitable?Does Chopin believe that it is as UN-realistic to expect fidelity from women as men?How do you see Chopin's presentation of men and women as more realistic than the traditional social view of her day?How do you see her presentation of men and women as less realistic?
14 "The Storm" themesUnlike most of Kate Chopin's short stories and both her novels, this story was not published until the 1960s, many years after it was written. Apparently Chopin did not submit it to magazines because she understood that no editor at the time would publish a work as sexually explicit as this one.
15 Per Seyersted, a Chopin biographer, writes that "sex in this story is a force as strong, inevitable, and natural as the Louisiana storm which ignites it." The conclusion of the story, Seyersted adds, is ambiguous, because Chopin "covers only one day and one storm and does not exclude the possibility of later misery. The emphasis is on the momentary joy of the amoral cosmic force."
16 In this story, Seyersted says, Kate Chopin "was not interested in the immoral in itself, but in life as it comes, in what she saw as natural--or certainly inevitable--expressions of universal Eros, inside or outside of marriage. She focuses here on sexuality as such, and to her, it is neither frantic nor base, but as 'healthy' and beautiful as life itself."