What effect did "A Pair of Silk Stockings" have on readers when it was first published?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story seems to have been received positively and negatively by Chopin's contemporaries.  It was originally published in Vogue magazine which was widely read by affluent young ladies during the late 1800s. For that audience, Chopin's story had a positive effect because Vogue was rather forward thinking like Chopin and did not want to feature stories dealing with the drudgeries of every day life (their readers knew little of those drudgeries, and most probably did not care to know more). While Chopin's message in "Stockings" is one of self-empowerment, it might also have presented the young wealthy readers of the magazine with a non-existent reality--in other words, Chopin's protagonist, Mrs. Sommers, makes a choice for herself and enjoys the results of her choice, but if real women who were in Mrs. Sommer's position had made the same choice, they most likely would have had regrets and would have been chided by others in their community.

While the story had the potential in the 1890s to help change the plight of women who had few if any rights, most of Chopin's contemporaries were not ready for her modern themes.  So, the story's real effect cannot be measured because it was received by many in the same negative manner as Chopin's novel, The Awakening, was (banned from libraries and widely criticized for "encouraging" wives and mothers to act selfishly.

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A Pair of Silk Stockings

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