Chopin, Kate. "A Pair of Silk Stockings".
Mrs Sommers married low but does not seem to be discontent. After all, she has no time to think of the past, the needs of the present absorb her every faculty.
When she comes into possession of some extra money, she carefully contemplates what the family needs most. She intends to buy a pair of shoes for her daughter, shirts for her sons, a gown for another daughter, and caps for all of the children.
When she arrives at the bargain, however, she is enchanted by a pair of black stockings. She buys it for herself, feeling as if she were buying a tiara of diamonds. Not thinking, she puts on her new stockings in the ladies' waiting room. The she selects a pair of shoes to fit with her new stockings. Also she buys herself a pair of gloves. Finally she buys two high-prized magazines, such as she was accustomed to read in the times when she was accustomed to other pleasant things.
On her way home she gets hungry. In any other time she would wait for home and take anything available. Now she enters a restaurant which she knows from outside but has never been inside. She chooses a nice meal and drink, glances in her magazines and on leaving, she leaves an extra coin for the waiter. Another temptation is a theatre. She visits it, laughs at comedy and weeps at tragedy. Her neighbour does the same, they discuss the play and the woman passes her a box of candy. The play ends and it is as if a dream was dissolved.
Mrs Sommers waits for a cable car. She gets in. Conclusion: "A man with keen eyes, who sat opposite to her, seemed to like the study of her small, pale face. It puzzled him to decipher what he saw there. In truth, he saw nothing—unless he were wizard enough to detect a poignant wish, a powerful longing that the cable car would never stop anywhere, but go on and on with her forever."
- a third person narrative, free access to the thoughts of Mrs Sommers
- subject: the life decision of a woman whether to marry for love or for wealth
- the precarious status of the ideal selfless woman: even such women have their selves and at times must satisfy its desires
- one of the few Chopin's stories focusing at a lower-class protagonist
- the story may be seen as a counterpart to Chopin's story "The Kiss" whose protagonist marries for wealth, but without love
- Chopin is great in describing feelings, especially negative ones (fear, anger, jealousy, etc.)
- great in penetrating the minds of women, treats the subject with sensitivity and insight
- her stories are mainly concerned with women and targeted at women, but she rarely falls in too much sentimentalism or romanticism
- her stories keep a thought-provoking quality and not always find a happy ending
- her subtle style reminds somewhat of the later British short story writer Katherine Mansfield
AuthorChopin, Kate. (1851 - 1904).
Full Title"A Pair of Silk Stockings".
First PublishedIn: Vogue. 1897.
Chopin, Kate. "A Pair of Silk Stockings". (1897). In: Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories. Ed. Sandra M. Gilbert. NY: Library of America, 2002.