The Storm Background

The Storm Background

Despite the fact that Kate Chopin’s “The Storm” ranks right up there alongside such short stories as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “A&P” as one of the most anthologized works of American fiction, not many readers are aware that it is actually a sequel to a previous story. So much for the conventional wisdom about the sequel never living up to the original. The essential characters Alcee and Calixta appear in both stories, but while “The Storm” has been ubiquitous in literature textbooks since its delayed publication in 1969, one usually must seek out the prequel titled “At the ‘Cadian Ball” in a collection of Chopin’s own stories in to discover exactly what led to the circumstances at play when that torrential downpour hits Louisiana in the follow-up.

As for curiously long interim between the publication of the prequel in 1892 and the arrival of “The Storm” in 1969, the answer is not Chopin penned the continuation in her twilight years just days before her approaching demise. In fact, she wrote the “The Storm” a mere six years after “At the ‘Cadian Ball” was published in 1892. The lapse in time between the publication of the original and the follow-up is due primarily to the fact that no legitimate or polite magazine would ever publish a story—especially one written by a woman—which contained the line “When he touched her breasts they gave themselves up in quivering ecstasy.”

And so, in all likelihood, any reader enthralled by the story of Alcee and Calixta while reading “At the ‘Cadian Ball” in Two Tales during the fall of 1892 who ever stopped to wonder what became of them never got the chance to find out due entirely to nothing more nebulous than the vagaries of societal decorum. Despite being completed in the summer of 1898 and—it must be admitted—despite Chopin’s obdurate refusal to remove the precious few passages that sent the story over the line of decorum, the story would never be read by any fans of the earlier story until the hippies of the 60s had finally contravened all conventions of acceptable explicit sexuality in stories capable of being published in magazines whose covers didn’t need to be hidden behind plain brown wrappers when on display inside stores.

As for Chopin herself managing to stick around long enough to see what has become second only to “The Story of an Hour” in terms of readership for her own prose make it into print at last, well, the sad truth is that she didn’t even come close. In fact, in her own real life version of Meet Me in St. Louis, it was the Grim Reaper that Kate Chopin had an appointment to meet at the 1904 World’s Fair. On her visit to the exposition, Chopin experienced a brain hemorrhage from which never recovered, dying two days later and 65 years before “The Storm” finally saw publication.

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