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In Kate Chopin's  "A Pair of Silk Stockings," what is meaning of the last message or...

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kiki1096 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 4, 2012 at 8:40 PM via web

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In Kate Chopin's  "A Pair of Silk Stockings," what is meaning of the last message or statement in the story?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 4, 2012 at 11:05 PM (Answer #1)

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Kate Chopin’s “A Pair of Silk Stockings” portrays an unusual protagonist in Mrs. Sommers.  We know little about the setting of the story.  The narration of the story is third person through the eyes of Mrs. Sommers.

Apparently Chopin did not consider Mrs. Sommers' marital status of importance to the story. She keeps her focus on Mrs. Sommers. She is a thrifty mother who spends time bargaining and considering for a long time before deciding to buy things below cost. For one or two days, she has been thinking and doing calculations about what to buy for her children with this extra amount of money.

The reader is given little information about Mrs. Sommers. It is said that she has undergone some hard times.

The neighbors sometimes talked of certain "better days" that little Mrs. Sommers had known before she had ever thought of being Mrs. Sommers. She herself indulged in no such morbid retrospection…

This may indicate that she has been widowed, but that is never verified in the story. 

Mrs. Sommers is a mother of at least four children: Jane, Mag, and the boys. They live in poverty. The details about the $15 is never given.  Once she feels the silk stocking and impulsively buys them, she continues to satisfy all of her desires that have been neglected in favor of her children.

The main character may seem selfish in her spending of the money; however, sometimes, it takes giving a person a day to be able to continue on with her everyday drudgery. The money would have helped her children; on the other hand, psychologically, she probably needed to have some comfort for herself.  Her extravagant day filled some inner longing.  

She struggles with a conflict: man versus himself. First, her inner turmoil comes from her maternal instincts to treat her children. Apparently, most of her time is spent in taking care of the children which is hard enough with a husband, but if he is dead, then that doubles her work.

All of a sudden everything she has in not good enough, she looks at her shopping bag as “shabby” and “old”. Her parcel is “very small”. At this point, she wants more. She begins to think without reason, and loses her sense of responsibility when she tries on the stockings. She is lured into spending her money on extravagances that she would never have been able to enjoy.

 Secondly, all people are tempted by material gain.  The life of luxury appeals to everyone.  “Little Mrs. Sommers” falls prey to the need to treat herself to a day.  Everything starts with a pair of silk stockings, then she buys a pair of pointed-tipped boots to suit with the stockings, a pair of gloves, two high-priced magazines, and she has tea in a fashionable, expensive restaurant. Finally, she watches a movie in the cinema. She spends all the 15 dollars in merely a day.

At the end of the day, she does not want it to end.  Mrs. Sommers feels different about herself and enjoys those feelings.  Hoping that the cable car will go on and on, she wants it to take her to a different place. 

After this special day, her desire to go somewhere else and never have to go back to life as it was before the $15 would not be unusual.  She may feel guilt that she spent the money and indulged herself instead.  She does not want to abandon her family. Yet, those emotions force her to not want to go home to her same life and face the realization that the money should have gone toward the children

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