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The pursuit of luxury, giving your time and support to everyone so that there is nothing for yourself, without wondering if the person will appreciate your decisions. This sense of guilt is something Mrs. Somers is familiar with in Kate Chopin's “A Pair of Silk Stockings.” However, the guilt that comes with fulfilling that inner desire when you have children or a family that you could help instead. Chopin does a phenomenal job of portraying the feeling of being pampered and successfully conveys how easy it is to buy a beautiful pair of silk stockings.
Story and Its Analysis
The story was first published in Vogue because the magazine was uncharacteristically "fearless and truthful" for the 1890s in its portrayal of women and their lives. Mrs. Sommers receives a small fortune of $15 and she decides to use the money to buy clothes for her children so they can look "fresh, dainty and new for the first time in their lives." This account suggests that Mrs. Sommers was a wealthy woman before her marriage. Mrs. Sommers rests at the counter, where she finds a pair of silk stockings and is fascinated by their smoothness. She ignores her plans to get clothes for her children and instead spends her money and her day on herself (Shen 4). At this point, Chopin makes quite a powerful feminist message already. She evokes women to care for themselves, even if at a mere minimum, even if on rather “lucky” occasions.
She buys stocking boots and skin-tight children's gloves, reads expensive magazines while dining at an upscale restaurant, and ends her day sharing chocolates with another theatergoer. Mrs. Sommers' recent purchase of Chopin inspires her to enter the restaurant, and to her surprise, everyone continues with their meal. No one knows that she is poor and that she has just bought her new outfit, they think that Mrs. Sommers is the same as they are rich. Mrs. Sommers goes through a wave of relief as she realizes that no one thinks she is not one of them. After the end of the play, she boards the cable car to return home with "a powerful longing that the cable car would never stop anywhere but go on and on with her forever." Silence can be considered a separate type of compression at the syntactic level in this story, which consists of the emotional break of the statement, “Flattery, of course. All the same, there was something…” (Chopin 2-3). The silence in the story implies that behind the words just spoken is not only flattery but something more pleasant and worthy of attention.
Rather, the silk stockings represent empty consumerism that Mrs. Sommers uses to escape her life, also empty but in a slightly different way. Critics argue that the power of money to boost self-esteem and confidence is at the heart of storytelling. By describing Mrs. Sommers as "small", Chopin is referring to more than her physical stature: all the neighbors know what Mrs. Sommers' social position was before her marriage and see how the marriage has affected her. In the store, Mrs. Sommers' physical exhaustion reflects her weakening resolve, for when Mrs. Sommers found the stocking, she managed to remain selfless (Shen 7). The temptation proves too strong, and she succumbs to the impulse that directed her actions and freed her from responsibility. Mrs. Sommers's stay in the materialistic world gives her confidence, but her brief moment of happiness must end.
Kate Chopin masterfully portrays the constant struggle to make the right decision for everyone else, leaving behind personal decisions, the problems a mother has to constantly care for her children, and how easy it is to succumb to temptation. For people, most of the decisions they make on a subconscious level cast doubt on whether the other person would not look down on them if they made that decision. This constant need for approval from others is a feeling we have from birth. Most people believe that it is necessary to constantly do something productive, if nothing is achieved, time is wasted. Chopin describes Mrs. Sommers' inability to remember the good old days due to the constant support her children need. So, since she can't afford to buy luxurious clothes as other moms can, she sacrifices herself to give her daughter a new dress so she will not be ashamed of her clothes.
Chopin, Kate. “A Pair of Silk Stockings. Kate Chopin International Society, 2006, https://www.katechopin.org/pdfs/Kate%20Chopin%2C%20A%20Pair%20of%20Silk%20Stockings.pdf
Shen, Dan. "Naturalistic Covert Progression Behind Complicated Plot: Chopin's "A Pair Of Silk Stockings"". Journal Of Narrative Theory, vol 52, no. 1, 2022, pp. 1-24. Project Muse, https://doi.org/10.1353/jnt.2022.0002. Accessed 13 June 2022.
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