A Pair of Silk Stockings is a short story by Kate Chopin. It tells a story of a mother who spends every penny she had on her four children and how she decided to use all her money to pamper herself one afternoon, instead.
What struck me the most while reading the story was how Chopin introduced the heroine, “Little Mrs. Sommers.” It gave me an impression that she was a simple, submissive, unimaginative woman — which I realized after finishing the story, was the complete opposite of who Mrs. Sommers was, especially before marriage.
The story started with Mrs. Sommers suddenly possessing $15, which rarely happened to her. Being a traditional mother, she immediately thought about spending the money on her children — Janie’s shoes, percale, new gown and stockings for Mag, caps for the boys, and sailor hats for the girls.
It seemed to me that her only happiness and satisfaction in life relied on her motherhood. In fact, in between doing her household chores and buying the garments for her children, she forgot to have her luncheon.
While sitting in front of a counter, she found a pair of black silk stockings. She was immediately enamored by the “soft, sheeny, luxurious things that glide serpent-like through her fingers.” Mrs. Sommers’s wary, bargaining, and frugal side seemed to have left her; she went back to being the classy and elegant woman she was before she was married, and purchased the silk stockings.
Oddly enough, the first thing that caught Mrs. Sommers’s attention was a pair of an undergarment — something that only she (or in this story, the boots salesman) can appreciate. To me, this is comparable to the present-day lingerie, bubble baths, vanity hours, night routines. These are purchases and rituals that no one else knows, except for the person experiencing them.
In the story, the way Mrs. Sommers dressed affected how she carried herself, and it gave her a “sense of belonging to the well-dressed multitude.”
Growing up, it had always amused me to see my grandmother put on lipstick and brush her hair in the morning, no matter how busy her day was, as if nothing else mattered in the morning except for her looks and time.
Sadly, Mrs. Sommers doesn’t think about the past anymore and just concerns herself with family issues at present and worries about the future.
Mrs. Sommers seemed to have forgotten who she was before marriage. Although the story ended with Mrs. Sommers poignantly wishing that the day of being free from responsibilities and having the time and means to take care of herself would go on and on. Perhaps the elegant woman in her was not gone, after all.
It left me with the hope that the independent, thoughtful, and elegant woman in her was not lost, that she was forever on her toes waiting for another opportunity to come out.
Women have lives and interests outside of being a wife and a mother, and they deserve to hold on to that identity and way of living regardless of any status.