A Pair of Silk Stockings
– Kate Chopin.
I have never read anything written by Kate Chopin. I always wanted to read her works, so I thought reading this short story will be a good introduction. A Pair of Silk Stockings is the story about Mrs. Sommers, who finds herself with extra money and can’t decide whether to indulge herself or her family. The story begins with Mrs. Sommers finding fifteen dollars in her possession. She is overjoyed by the extra money and plans on how she will get a few things for her family that she was putting off due to budget constraints.
Mrs. Sommers makes a list mentally to go shopping the next day and buy new slightly fancy clothes for her kids. The next day when she is in the shop, she is unable to spend the money as she had previously planned. She finds a beautiful pair of silk stockings on discount, seeing that it is on a discount she buys that pair for herself. Buying this pair of stockings leads to an indulgent day for Mrs. Sommers. She is completely family-oriented. She thinks about her kids, and the household needs most of the time, being responsible for even the smallest thing they might need. In the beginning, when she gets the money, her first thoughts are about getting things for her kids and household.
Once she buys that pair of stockings, she does something just for herself and likes how liberating that feels. This leads to a day of indulgent spending on herself though at the back of her mind she feels guilty about spending money just on herself. There are also underlying instances regarding bias based on social class. Mrs. Sommers feels a sense of belonging after her purchases and feels like a different person with the fancy things she bought. She feels confident about herself and notices the change in the way people perceive her when she has fancy things. Mrs. Sommers as a character also reinforces the kind of gender roles that were in place in those times. Her identity, behavior everything is in accordance with her family and not really her own. The way she behaves, and carries out her responsibilities, is all that is expected of her as a woman.
The main theme of the story I feel focused on consumerism as a means to escape. Mrs. Sommers lives a normal ordinary life that is focused on her as a mother and a wife. Buying those stockings, spending money on herself makes her feel special; it is an escape from her reality, but it is for a short time. Once she starts indulging, she buys a few other things, and then she has lunch at a fancy place; it gives her the illusion that life is different for a few moments. Towards the end, when it’s time for her to go back home, she feels like a dream ended. The escape through consumerism is limited to a few hours before she has to go to her real life.
The story is narrated and written very well. As a reader, you can relate to Mrs. Sommers as a character though I did some reading regarding the historical context of the story about the period it was written in that helped me better understand the story. I enjoyed reading this short story. It makes its point in a subtle and not so subtle way at times, but it stays engaging throughout.
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