The story was written in July 1898 and it reflects the lifestyle of the 19th century. The story introduces the female protagonist as a dedicated homemaker sewing furiously and gathering her husband’s Sunday clothes put out to dry before huge drops of rain wet them. There is no hint of the approaching storm in the first part of the story. Calixta feels warm and mops up the perspiration in the second part having no clue of the impending rains (Manning, 434).
In the Story, the character of Calixta is unable to conform to the society’s standards of acceptable conduct, although her lover Alcee perceives her favorably. When Alcee states: “If she was not an immaculate dove in those days, she was still inviolate” (Farca, 124), he is essentially saying that just because a woman is not deemed pure of flesh, it nevertheless does not contest the purity of her heart. The exchanges between Calixta and Alcee will have to be read in the context of her marriage. What the author is trying to imply is that Calixta’s chastity was already lost through the marriage. Hence where is the question of her conduct being unchaste? The sparse attention given to Alcee’s morality in the narrative is an indication of the norms of the day – when different standards are applied to men and women and the society being a male dominated one (Farca, 123).
Chopin is a lucid writer and direct to the point she makes. She is bold in outlook for her times and oftentimes rebels against the accepted beliefs of her times. Her writing is rebellious and unconventional for a woman author of her time (Dictionary of Literary Biography, 69).
Since she was born to Irish and French-Creole parents and wedded to a Creole her language is interspersed with the local dialect (a highly informal one). The author emphatically states the narrative unabashedly and abstains from moralizing (Dictionary of Literary Biography, 62).
In the passage where Calixta is introduced, she is shown as someone lost in the act of sewing. Here. Chopin employs an interesting choice of words – “no uneasiness for their safety”. Some critics point to sewing as a metaphor for sexual intercourse, although this view is not expressed by the author herself. Seyersted adds this observation:
“Perhaps by including other instances in literature in which sewing was used in this matter may have been helpful to readers who are not as familiar with “popular metaphors”, but this essay was presumably written for an audience already interested in the history and identification of recurrent symbolism and metaphor.”(Seyersted)
The author makes the passionate sequence involving Calixta and Alecee vivid by creatively constructing unusual word orders (all taken from the text of the story) such as
“…her liquid blue eyes”;
“….her mouth was a fountain of delight.”
“….her blue eyes still retained their melting quality”
The story comprises some wondrous similes alluding to Calixa’s beautiful body (all quotes from the original story text):
“as white as the couch she lay upon”,