Is irony important to "A Pair of Silk Stockings"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the exposition of "A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin, the main character, Mrs. Sommers, who has come into the sum of fifteen dollars, ponders for days about whether to invest it or to spend it:  "She did not wish to act hastily, to do anything she might afterward regret."  During the night, she reaches her decision:  she will buy things for the children, and she is excited about the idea of "her brood" looking fresh and dainty and new gives her hapiness.

The irony, of course, is that Mrs. Sommers does not, in fact, act prudently at when she goes shopping.  For, after she touches the silk stockings, the repressed desire to pamper herself a little surfaces.  She purchases the stockings, changes into them in the ladies' waiting-room, and delights in the feel of the silk against her skin:  "She was not thinking at all."  Mrs. Sommers succumbs to her desire to pamper herself and spends the money upon herself in contrast to her characterization in the exposition of Chopin's story.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Irony is very important in Chopin's "A Pair of Silk Stockings."  The protagonist Mrs. Sommers is a woman who knows the value of a good bargain.  She and her family struggle financially, so she has learned how to make every cent count towards something.  At the beginning of the story, she has fifteen dollars and must decide how best to spend the money.  She thinks about all the necessities that her children require, and she makes a list of these items in her head as she plans her spending.  So it is ironic that Mrs. Sommers chooses to spend all of this money on luxuries for herself because her actions go against the character that has been portrayed thus far in the story.  The reader therefore infers that Mrs. Sommers has an inner conflict regarding her position and responsibility as a family woman and her dreams and desires as a person.  The sense of irony is the view into this inner conflict.