The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how Kate Chopin uses the elements of setting for enhancing the effectiveness of the storytelling techniques. The setting as an important element of fiction always has a significant impact on readers’ perception of the literary works. However, in Chopin’s The Storm, the elements of setting are interconnected with the rest of the plot lines and not only explain but also influence their development. The setting of the story is complex and multi-layered, presenting the life of the rural community and placing the storm into the midst of the story. The most important part of work on the assignment was the attempt to evaluate the role of the setting by imagining that the story could be written without setting.
One of the main difficulties which occurred during the close reading and analysis of the short story is the interpretation of the phrases of a boy who was speaking gibberish dialect. Still, the use of the dialect words is explained with Chopin’s intention to represent the authentic picture and make her characters look more realistic. Personal experience with storms makes the main element of setting understandable for readers, however, Chopin’s interpretation endows this element with new meanings. The main strengths of the paper include the evaluation of various functions of setting in The Storm and support of the assumptions with the citations from theoretical sources and the episodes from the literary work. If the paper could be revised, I would pay more attention to the symbolic meanings of the storm.
The paper is written in MLA style and includes direct quotations supporting the main ideas.Sincerely, Setting is a significant element of any literary work which can be used at the author’s discretion for contrasting or complementing the depicted events. Kate Chopin used the setting of her short story The Storm for enhancing the effectiveness of the storytelling process and intensifying the effect produced on readers by the main plot lines. Kate Chopin used the details of setting for explaining some of the circumstances which were significant for the development of the plot lines. In this sense, setting can be regarded as fate which is out of characters’ hands and rules their destinies to some extent.
In some of the episodes the details of setting deprive characters of free choice. Thus, the main characters act in accordance with circumstances instead of using their free will. The setting explains why Calixta is separated from her husband who has to wait till the end of the storm in Friedheimer’s store. Another important function of setting is the clarification of the fact that she is left alone without hired assistance with her household work. These details substitute the characters’ conscious decisions and throw Calixta into the arms of Alcee, one of her former lovers. The author shifts the moral responsibility for committing adultery from the main characters on concurrence of circumstances depicted in the setting.
On the one hand, Calixta and Alcee are only accidentally left alone and these are the details of setting that make their adultery possible. On the other hand, Alcee decided to come to Calixta before the storm and rain started, and this detail cannot be hidden from an attentive reader, evoking engaged response in him/her (Schilb and Clifford 683). The storm as one of the central elements of setting covers the lovers and explains if not justifies their sin. In that regard, setting can be recognized as one of important plot lines which play an important role in explaining the development of events. Another important function of the setting in The Storm is the substitution of some descriptions in the frames of the nineteenth century literary code. “Readers unfamiliar with nineteenth-century narrative codes often fail to realize what is happening” (Walker 118). Though Chopin described only particular details of setting instead, hiding the erotic scene from her readers, they can understand the implication of the author’s cues. The elements of setting were used by the author of The Storm for explaining and even justifying the behavior of the main characters with the external factors and the concurrence of circumstances and meeting the requirements of the nineteenth century literary code for describing particular episodes.
As one of the integral elements of the short story, setting not only explains the behavior of the main characters but also has a significant impact on it by intertwining with the rest of the plot lines. In particular episodes, weather conditions are decisive factors which precondition the following development of events, depriving the characters of their free will for making decisions. The storm as the central element of setting becomes a hurdle for the movement of people who are induced to stay indoors waiting till the end of the rain. Though the nasty weather and the obstacles created by it are taken for granted by the characters and Calixta at first even does not notice the changes in the atmosphere, the storm became not only an excuse for the adultery but even an important precondition for it. The storm allowed Calixta and Alcee to stay alone, covering their forbidden love affair and separating them from the rest of the world. Chopin uses setting as force which compels characters to commit actions which they would not take without the details of the setting.
Author’s special emphasis on the depiction of setting and interconnection them with the rest of the lines can be explained with the conventions of the nineteenth century literature. In this sense, carving out setting, the author encoded the messages for contemporary readers because of inability to express her attitude directly. “Chopin offered an unusually frank depiction of a joyful and pleasurable extra-marital sexual encounter with positive effects on both partners and their families” (Gibert 72). Though this optimistic mood towards the depiction of extramarital relationship is not expressed directly, it becomes obvious through decoding the implications incorporated into the details of setting. “The final line of the story absolves the lovers of any guilt” (Werlock 619).
The details of setting in The Storm are used as not only a separate plot line which in particular episodes is made a decisive factor influencing the characters’ behavior but also a set of important implications foe encoding Chopin’s attitude towards the depicted events. Along with explaining and influencing the characters’ behavior, the details of setting in The Storm create the atmosphere for the depicted events and have symbolic meaning. Taking into account the peculiarities of literary world, the interpretation of setting should not be limited to its literary meaning. Thus, the storm should not be regarded as a mere weather condition. For instance, readers can draw parallels between the depiction of the passionate meeting, the public indignation with the extramarital love affairs and the events in the atmosphere.
The storm as one of the central elements of setting can be associated with life of rural community. The life of the main characters is depicted as dull and monotonous and the depiction of setting produces the impression of dull and boring existence of the rural community before the depicted events took place. After committing adultery, the lovers return to their families without being punished for their sin and without changing the accustomed state of affairs in them. The open ending of the short story under consideration gives readers food for thought. “So the storm passed and everyone was happy” (Chopin 257). In this part the meaning of the word storm is not obvious as it can be interpreted as a part of setting or characteristic of family relationships.
Leaving the ending of the story open and combining the depiction of weather and people’s feelings in one sentence, the author motivates readers to look for symbolic interpretations of the elements of setting throughout the text of the short story. The setting of Chopin’s story creates particular atmosphere and influences readers’ perception of the plot lines expressing the author’s attitude towards the depicted events through drawing the parallels between the elements of setting and the life of rural community. The setting of the short story The Storm by Kate Chopin is used as a separate plot line which complements and influences the development of other motifs. On the one hand, the elements of setting are used for explaining and justifying the behavior of the main characters. On the other hand, the limitations of the nineteenth century narrative code compelled Chopin to encode her attitude towards the depicted events into the elements of setting by endowing them with symbolic meaning.
Chopin, Kate and Rachel Adams. The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003.
Print. Gibert, Teresa. “The Role of Implicatures in Kate Chopin’s Louisiana Short Stories”. Journal of the Short Story in English Spring 2003: 69-84. Print.
Schilb, John and John Clifford. Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. Bedford: St Martin’s, 2008.
Print. Walker, Nancy. Kate Chopin: A Literary Life. New York: Palgrave, 2001.
Print. Werlock, Abby. Facts on File Companion to the American Short Stories. New York: Maple-Vail Manufacturing Group, 2010. Print.