While at the matinee, what does Mrs. Sommers notice about the other women who are there?  What does this suggest about consumerism and the lifestyle that she is currently enjoying so much?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! When Mrs. Sommers finds herself in unexpected possession of fifteen dollars, she feels self-important. She tells herself that she must be scrupulous with the money; after all, with fifteen dollars, she reasons that she will be able to purchase a pair of good quality shoes for Janie. She would also be able to purchase enough yards of material to make new shirt-waists for several of her children; what's more, there would still be money left over to purchase caps for the boys, sailor-hats for the girls, a new gown for Mag, and new stockings.

However, as Mrs. Sommers ventures into town, her good intentions go out the window. The idea of enjoying a play at the theater beckons her attention. She notices that the other women there are dressed gaudily.They seem to be there just to show off their attire, to kill time, and to eat candy. Mrs. Sommer's experience in town shows how easy it is to be swept in by the consumerist lifestyle. When she steps into a nice restaurant, the easy ambiance beguiles her with its luxuriant sophistication, and she finds herself ordering expensive food tidbits and drinks that she would never have entertained the idea of ordering before she stepped into the restaurant. Mrs. Sommer's experience can be summed up below:

She was not going through any acute mental process or reasoning with herself, nor was she striving to explain to her satisfaction the motive of her action. She was not thinking at all. She seemed for the time to be taking a rest from that laborious and fatiguing function and to have abandoned herself to some mechanical impulse that directed her actions and freed her of responsibility.

It is tedious to always be counting pennies and to constantly deprive oneself of treats; furthermore, it is far easier to be tempted into spending more than one intends when one is besieged by the trappings of wealth, leisure, and sophistication (the consumerist lifestyle). Kate Chopin also shows that sometimes, women are torn between duty and pleasure. It is the wise woman who knows how to maintain the right balance between the two.

Thanks for the question.