Use of Subtle Details in The Storm
Effectively describing the relationships between characters is one vital component to a great piece of literature. Without a fundamental understanding of what the characters are feeling and a sense of where they are coming from, a literary work is a puzzle with missing pieces. A variety of tools exist for authors to accomplish this goal. Such information can be provided outright, as in a flashback, or an author may chose to rely more heavily on subtle tactics. In Kate Chopin’s The Storm the preferred forms of relationship development are subtle. By making good use of tone, small details like dialect and an overarching metaphor, Chopin skillfully incorporates a great deal of emotional depth.
The first device with which Chopin subtly builds the characters' relationships is tone. Chopin uses tone as a tool to shape the
reader's attitude. By addressing the actions of Calixta and Alcee with a favorable tone, both characters seem to have done something natural and inevitable. In fact, Calixta and Alcee both commit adultery, yet it is presented to the reader in such a way that both characters escape any kind of negative judgment. If Chopin had merely written down the course of events in The Storm one might expect a likely response of disapproval from the reader.
Evidence of this use of tone is not hard to find in the text. One clear example is found as the love scene develops. Chopin describes
Calixta?s flesh as ?knowing for the first time its birthright.? The word ?birthright? suggests that Calixta is entitled to this affair. At the same time the words ?knowing for the first time? seem to imply that Bobinot, her husband of five years, is inferior to what she deserves.
Other prime examples follow the love scene. When Calixta and Alcee must return to their own partners, Chopin describes it as though nothing had happened. When Bobinot and Bibi return home she is cooking dinner for them and is relieved that they are home. They sat at the table and ?laughed so loud that anyone might have heard them as far away as Laballiere?s.? Chopin does not describe any of Calixta?s emotions that one might expect, such as guilt or nervousness. Similarly, Alcee goes home and writes his wife a ?loving letter, full of tender solicitude.? Once again, any feelings of guilt or regret thatAlcee might be feeling are not included in the description.
Chopin uses tone to influence the reader?s attitude toward the two lovers throughout the story. At the same time she uses another device less subtle at face value, but whose implications are easy to miss. By showing a difference in dialect between her characters, Chopin gives the reader a glimpse into the their respective backgrounds.