Does the author want the reader to feel badly about Mrs. Sommer's behavior?Kate Chopin's "A Pair of Silk Stockings"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Kate Chopin's short story "A Pair of Silk Stockings" presents a nineteenth-century woman, Mrs. Sommers, who briefly has a reprieve from the demands of domestic life.  Her conflicting feelings in the exposition of the story as she deliberates about how to spend her "unexpected" fifteen dollars suggest her lack of freedom.  With a sense of obligation to her family, she decides to purchase material with which to make clothing for the children.  Still, she indulges herself in the thought of being able to purchase a new pair of stockings with the money that will remain after she buys the material.

Then, when she goes out she forgets "the needs of the present" and indulges herself happily in more than the pair of silk stockings she has intended to purchase:

Her stockings and boots and well-fitting gloves had worked marvels in her bearing--had given her a feeling of assurance, a sense of belonging to the well-dressed multitude. 

When the "dream ended," Mrs. Sommers rides the cable car with a "powerful longing that [it] would never stop anywhere, but go on and on with her forever." Certainly, the denouement of Chopin's story is a poignant one as the reader senses Mrs. Sommers's longing for a better life than the one to which she will soon return.  The effects of a diminished household income and the strife it has wrought upon Mrs. Sommers is indeed touching and the reader feels a sympathy for the woman who must abandon her personal indulgement and return to the drudgery of the mundane in which her own identity is lost.


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