When Mrs.Sommers first feels the silk stockings, they "glide serpentlike through her fingers." Why is the use of "serpentlike" significant in "A Pair of Silk Stockings"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Little" Mrs. Sommers, who has no time to devote her thoughts to better days in the past because "the needs of the present absorb[ed] her every faculty," makes plans for the dispensing of the fifteen dollars that she has acquired. [This is equivalent to a little more than $200.00 nowadays]. With practicality, she outlines what she will purchase for her children; however, she does plan to enjoy the luxury of buying a pair of silk stockings as there should be enough left over after the children's purchases.

Ironically, then, when Mrs. Sommers sits down at an abandoned counter, her hand inadvertently lands upon something "very soothing, very pleasant to the touch"--silk stockings. And, they are on sale. Smiling as a clerk asks her if she wished to examine the silk hosiery line, Mrs. Sommers delights in the luxurious feel of the stockings, that "glide serpentlike through her fingers," perhaps recalling how she once wore such stockings. Quickly, she purchases a black pair, and, then, takes the elevator to an upper floor where she finds "a retired corner" in the ladies room; there she exchanges her cotton stockings for the new silk ones. With unthinking mechanical movements, movements that "freed her of responsibility," she puts them on.

The "serpentine" lure of the luxury of the stockings tempts Mrs. Sommers to remember the lovely things that she once enjoyed before she became a mother and to now desire these indulgences.  Like the serpent from the Garden of Eden in the Bible who lures Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit, the desire to own the "forbidden fruit" of stylish shoes and quality gloves that would place her in the "well-dressed multitude" again overcomes little Mrs. Sommers.  She gives in to the temptations before her and splurges all on her own desires. But, all too soon,

The play was over, the music ceased, the crowd filed out. It was like a dream ended...Mrs. Sommers went to the corner and waited for the cable car.

  Her day spent in luxury at an end, Mrs. Sommers takes the cable car home, wishing the car would never stop, but "go on and on with her forever."

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A Pair of Silk Stockings

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