WomenÆs Passions: Chopin and Steinbeck
For no woman (or any man) does marriage come easy. Marriage, even the best one, necessitates compromises and dedication and, above all, the denial of personal longings for something ôdifferentö or even more passionate than one is accustomed to having. This is very much the case with respect to Kate ChopinÆs heroine, Calixta (of ôThe Stormö) and John SteinbeckÆs Elisa (of Chrysanthemumsö). Both women, in different ways and to different degrees, confront their longings and then move on, back to the security of their day-to-day lives.
ChopinÆs (p. 1507) Calixta is a married woman with a four-year-old child who recalls a lost passion when ôIf she was not an immaculate dove in those days she was still inviolate; a passionate creature whose very defenselessness made her defense.ö Left alone in her rural home by her husband and son as a storm approaches, Calixta grants shelter (from the storm) to her almost-lover, Alcee Laballiere. With the storm upon them, the passion of a long-age Assumption 'Cadian ball and festival reclaims them. The external drama of the storm is balanced in this story by the internal drama taking place in CalixtaÆs living room, where ôthe generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery,, was like the white flame (Chopin, p. 1507).ö
With Alcee, Calixta experienced the sexual fulfillment that 'was her birthright (Chopin, p. 1507)ö and which she had apparently denied herself even in her marriage. This woman, who experiences an ecstasy with Alcee that leaves her laughing and breathless, transcends the poverty of her house and the limits of her marriage. She achieves a sense of release û from the fear of the storm and from the confinement of her marriage and maternity û that allows her to move with her lover ôtogether to the very borderland of lifeÆs mystery (Chopin, p. 1507). When her husband an child return unhurt from the storm and...