A Pair of Silk Stockings

by Kate Chopin

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What does Mrs. Sommers's lunch orders reveal about her tastes, and how do these tastes contrast with the reality of her life?

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When Mrs. Sommers orders lunch, it reflects a considerable contrast in her being.  At the outset of her "investing" the fifteen dollars, Mrs. Sommers thought about the needs of her family.  Her frugality and conservative nature in allocating the money was done as a wife and mother, the domesticated head of the household.  When Mrs. Sommers starts to spend the money in light of her own personal desires and in the name of her own identity, a definite shift becomes evident.  These tastes are more reflective of her own personal enhancement as opposed to needs that must be met.  Mrs. Sommers's lunch experience reflects the gap between her real life and a hopeful construction of what can be.

Mrs. Sommers's lunch orders reflect a desire to make herself happy as a human being.  This is in stark contrast to the way in which Mrs. Sommers had allocated the money in the name of the responsibility intrinsic to her role as a mother and wife.  In her lunch order and lunch experience, Mrs. Sommers's tastes and preferences reflect something for her, as opposed to her externally dictated role and function:

She seated herself at a small table alone, and an attentive waiter at once approached to take her order.  She did not want a profusion; she craved a nice and tasty bite – a half dozen blue-points, a plump chop with cress, a something sweet – a crème-frappée, for instance; a glass of Rhine wine, and after all a small cup of black coffee...A soft, pleasing strain of music could be heard, and a gentle breeze, was blowing through the window. 

Mrs. Sommers's lunch experience and her tastes reflect a desire to make herself happy.  This can be seen in how Mrs. Sommers felt about actually eating and the realization of the moment in the taste of her experience:  "She tasted a bite, and she read a word or two, and she sipped the amber wine and wiggled her toes in the silk stockings.  The price of it made no difference.  She counted the money out to the waiter and left an extra coin on his tray, whereupon he bowed before her as before a princess of royal blood."  Mrs. Sommers wishes to experience an afternoon, a moment, where she is a woman of "royal blood."  Her tastes in this moment is a stark contrast to the reality of her life.  These tastes reflect a "poignant wish, a powerful longing" that both they and the "cable car would never stop anywhere, but go on and on with her forever."  This is where one sees how Mrs. Sommers's tastes and preferences during lunch contrast with the reality of her life.

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