Homework Help

What are 2 themes of "A Pair of Silk Stockings"?Kate Chopin's "A Pair of Silk Stockings"

user profile pic

graziabella97 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 25, 2011 at 9:37 AM via web

dislike -1 like

What are 2 themes of "A Pair of Silk Stockings"?

Kate Chopin's "A Pair of Silk Stockings"

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 24, 2012 at 3:22 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

In Kate Chopin's short story, "A Pair of Silk Stockings," Mrs. Sommers  spends a day luxuriating in her freedom and in the enjoyment of having money to spend on herself.  At the end of the afternoon, when she yet has some money in her purse, Mrs. Sommers enters a theater in order to watch a play:

There were many others who were there solely for the play and acting. It is safe to say there was no one present who bore quite the attitude which Mrs. Sommers did to her surroundings. She gathered in the whole--stage and players and people in one wide impression, and absorbed it and enjoyed it.

This passage is central to the themes of Chopin's story:

Nostalgia and Longing for Conditions of the Past.

Mrs. Sommers wishes to escape a life of what one critic calls "enforced frugality."  Since she has become a mother, Mrs. Sommers has had to think first of the needs of her children.  But, with the surplus money, Mrs. Sommers delights in pampering herself as she has done before her marriage and motherhood; she buys gloves and silk stockings and new pointed-tipped boots, reveling in the pleasure that each object brings her.

Repression and the need for self-assertion

Made powerless by her economic situation, Mrs. Sommers becomes imprisoned in a dull routine as she is responsible for nurturing her children and has little time for herself. In fact, her life is so unhappy that she merely focuses upon living through one day at a time.  Her need for freedom is clearly symbolized in Mrs. Sommers's resting her hand upon the counter where she feels "something very soothing, very pleasant to touch."   This encounter of her hand with the raw silk of the stockings awakens the repressed soul of Mrs. Sommers.  Her hunger for the small indulgences of the past stirred, Mrs. Sommers strives for some independence, if only for a day. Consequently, she purchases the luxurious stockings, the gloves, and attends a play  in the theatre where she acts herself as she pretends that she is autonomous. 

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes