“A Pair of Silk Stockings” is a short story written by Kate Chopin, published in 1897. Chopin is known for her exploration of themes that reflect the role of women in society. Moreover, in “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” she portrays the quiet struggle of a woman searching for a sense of balance between family life and personal contentment. Our protagonist is Mrs. Sommers: a wife and mother. Her family is poor, but one day, Mrs. Sommers finds herself to be the unexpected possessor of fifteen dollars. Mrs. Sommers fills her nights with contemplation and speculation on how she should use the money wisely. She is overwhelmed with anticipation as she pictures her children in some new clothes that she could purchase for them, such as new shoes, new shirt waists, and a new gown, as well. On the morning of her shopping bout, Mrs. Sommers is so filled with excitement and eagerness that she forgets to eat her lunch. She feels tired, and is worn out, but she proceeds with her errands.
Mrs. Sommers is an expert at finding bargains and saving money; she is always looking for a good sale. But on this day, she finds a pair of silk stockings that she desires for herself. They feel nice against her touch and is enticed by them. The store has several in her size and in various colors. She is eventually lured into buying them and immediately puts them on. Later, instead of continuing with her errands and heading toward the bargain bins as she normally does, Mrs. Sommers gets fitted for gloves, something she has not done for some time. She heads towards a stall where there are piles of books and magazines. Mrs. Sommers buys two high-priced magazines. She is slowly beginning to be self-content, and she revels in the feeling of it.
Consequently, she finds herself to be starving, and instead of going home and making herself a cup of tea like she would normally do, she is hit by an impulse, and treats herself to a restaurant. She has eyed the restaurant before, but never has she stepped foot into it. As she did, she noticed that she caused no consternation; she fit right in with the fancy people at the restaurant.
Mrs. Sommers notices that she still has some money left in her porte-monnaie, and her next temptation presented itself in the shape of a matinée poster. She enters the theater, and sits among the elegantly dressed women and men crowding the theater. She enjoys the performance and the acting, and laughed and wept, where need be. After Mrs. Sommers’ long, eventful day, she dreads going home. The story ends with Mrs. Sommers sitting in a cable car, wishing that it would continue traveling forever.
Throughout “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” Chopin beautifully portrays a woman caught between different roles. Mrs. Sommers does not want to abandon her family, but she also does not want to abandon her personal identity while fulfilling the role of wife and mother. The story’s vague ending suggests that the struggle is one that continues to be encountered by women, as a whole.