Considering "A Pair of Silk Stockings," which critic, if any, do you agree with?
A feminist critic might say that this story is about a woman who is striving to gain personal freedom and identity. A Marxist critic might say it is about the class struggle. The critic Barbara C. Ewell writes, "The power of money to enhance self-esteem and confidence is the core of this poignant tale."
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It is clear that each of these philosophical approaches to the story has its own individual merits. In one sense, this story is a tale of a woman trying desperately to carve out her own identity as a woman rather than a mother who is constantly thinking of her children. Note the way that she has already meticulously planned how she will spend the money on her children before she gives in to temptation:
The question of investment was one that occupied her greatly. For a day or two she walked about apparently in a dreamy state, but really absorbed in speculation and calculation. She did not wish to act hastily, to do anything she might afterward regret.
Thus some would applaud Mrs. Sommers' decision to spend the money on herself to help her define herself apart from her role as wife and mother.
However, equally it is clear that Mrs. Sommers in part spends the money because she wants to be thought of as belonging to a different, higher class from the class that she belongs to at present. Note her immense satisfaction and relief as she enters the restaurant that nobody identifies her as "not belonging":
When she entered, her appearance created no surprise, no consternation, as she had herself feared it might.
Finally, it is undoubtedly true that the fantasy of Mrs. Sommers allows her to gain self-esteem and confidence in society that before she lacked. Consider what the text tells us about the impact of the new clothes that Mrs. Sommers wears:
Her stockings and boots and well-fitting gloves had worked marvels in her bearing--had given her the feeling of assurance, a sense of belonging to the well-dressed multitude.
This is an excellent example of how it is possible to take a myriad of different views on one text and for all of them to be correct. The real question, though, is a personal one: which view do you think to me most correct and why?
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