What's the symbolism in this story?"A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Kate Chopin's "A Pair of Silk Stockings" nearly every object and place has symbolic significance.  Thus, the symbols are integral to the story's meaning as the title itself denotes.

Here are some of the symbols:

  • the fifteen dollars - This amount that seems large to Mrs. Sommers represents "a feeling of importance such as she had not enjoyed for years" as, to her, it symbolizes her "better times."
  • the silk stockings - These "very soothing, very pleasant to the touch" stockings represent luxury to Mrs. Sommers as well as pleasure as she looks at the various shades of light bue,, lavender, black, tan, and gray.
  • the "shabby old shopping bag" - This reminder of her harder days is contrasted with the contents of the bag, the stockings. 
  • her cotton stockings - Mrs. Sommers changes from these and dons the silk stockings.  Placing the cotton stockings into the shabby bag is an act of freedom for Mrs. Sommers:

She...abandoned herself to some mechanical impulse that directed her actions and freed her of responsibility.

  • the gloves and boots - "It was a long time since Mrs. sommers had been fitted with gloves."  These gloves and new boots symbolize a return to again "belonging to the well-dressed multitude."
  • the magazines - Also reminders of the days when "she had been accustomed to other pleasant things."
  • the perfumed lacy hankie - This belongs to the "gaudy woman" at the theatre; it is a reminder that Mrs. Sommers "belonging to the well-dressed multitude" is incomplete
  • the cable car - The passage back to her normal life is one that Mrs. Sommers wishes "would never stop anywhere, but go on and on with her forever."





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A Pair of Silk Stockings

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