At the Cadian ball




“Calixta would be there… That little Spanish vixen.” No matter what the age, there are certain types of women who seem to capture the attention of every man in the room. In the story At the ‘Cadian Ball by Kate Chopin, the protagonist Calixta is precisely that kind of a girl. She is an atypical female of her time. The ideal woman of the late 1800’s was demure, prim and restrained. She was the paragon of prudery, modesty personified. Then there was Calixta. Calixta was everything that the idealized ‘Madonna’ of her time was not. She was boldly flirtatious, impulsive, sensuous and altogether outrageous. For all these anomalous characteristics, she is admired in a fashion. Especially since society of the time is rather homogenous and has strict guidelines for behavior.
The heavy racial preconceptions of the times are also evident in this story. The only reason Calixta’s scandalous behavior is tolerated by the community is in her ethnicity. Even so, the men do not seem to mind her behavior much. The women on the other hand did not always approve. “Bon chien tient de race” She was dismissed often leniently since her mother was Spanish. It did not matter that Calixta had never been to Cuba. The fact that Spanish blood flowed through her veins was enough for the people to automatically assume she was indecent. Perhaps Calixta was influenced by these preconceived expectations.
Yet despite her shocking behavior, her indecency was innocent, and deliberate at the same time. Her taunts towards Bobinot, “Mais, w’at’s the matta? Standin’ plante la like ole ma’ame Tina’s cow in the bog you!” was deliberately provocative, however it came naturally to her. Since it was in her nature to say such things out of fun, it was innocent. However, the prairie people still find it amusing, yet at the time they would never tolerate such behavior in their daughters. By this standard, Calixta is seen as slightly inferior to the rest of the girls. Of course no matter how much leeway her Spanish blood may give her, Calixta still had scandalous stories told about her.
Calixta’s cheerful nature drives her to have a hedonistic outlook. She is effortlessly popular, and her pleasure-seeking attitude is inappropriately uninhibited. At the same time, she has a need to be admired. There is no profound seriousness in her; her flirtations are merely pleasant diversions. She does, however have a manipulative edge with her friendships with Bobinot and Alcee. It almost seems as though she took her charisma for granted. She was absolutely certain that Bonito was infatuated with her. Kate Chopin make that very clear in the opening paragraph, and elaborates in the second: “Her eyes… the drowsiest, most tantalizing that ever looked into a man’s… He thought of her eyes and weakened....” Evidently, Calixta values her ability to entrance men as her worth.
Calixta is presumably of marriageable age, as evidenced by her agreement to marry Bobinot in the end. She is crushed by Alcee’s silent and abrupt departure. For Calixta, this was reason enough to doubt herself after all. Since Calixta bases her ego on men’s reactions towards her, this was a humbling experience. Fortunately for Bobinot, he happened to encounter her when she was confused. Since Calixta is impulsive, she decides to not give Bobinot a reason to leave, and she announces that “You been sayin’ all along you want to marry me… Well if you want, yet, I don’ care, me.” Rather than loving Bobinot, Calixta agrees to marry him out of a sort of desperation. People are always searching for attention, and Calixta is no exception. Alcee is intriguing for her; therefore, she pursues him, with harmless trifling and suggestions.
She does not feel quite right unless there is someone admiring her, since Alcee is obviously not going to do that, she decides Bobinot is better than nothing is.
Calixta’s conduct directly reflects her purposes. Despite the fact that she is distinctive in personality and manner she ends up marrying Bobinot. In essence, she does what all the women do, albeit in a different manner. She does take initiative in proposing marriage. However, the point is that she gets married. In the end, regardless of her outrageously coquettish behavior,