The beautiful and delicate pair of silk stockings that Mrs. Sommers finds while shopping carry several levels of symbolic significance. In one sense, the stockings symbolize Mrs. Sommers’s repressed desires—the desire to feel beautiful, the desire to belong, and the desire to escape her miserable and mundane existence. Mrs. Sommers often envies “the well-dressed multitude” from a distance, longing for the luxury she was accustomed to before her marriage. The purchase of the stockings is her first step towards reclaiming the lifestyle she has lost, and gaining self-assurance once more. Before her shopping trip, Mrs. Sommers is a depleted woman, worn-out from tending selflessly and tirelessly to her family. The silk stockings (and the purchases that follow) replenish her femininity. Her womanhood is disentangled from her role as a mother, for perhaps the very first time in years, and she is able to enjoy indulging in all things feminine, pretty, and womanly. Further, the silk stockings represent an awakening of repressed female sexuality. Mrs. Sommers’s sexual desire is implied repeatedly in relation to the silk stockings, which are described with sensuous language. Through her heroine, Chopin reveals the subjugation experienced by nineteenth-century women, who were paradoxically expected to be pure, pious, and virtuous, while simultaneously subservient to their husband’s every sexual want. The silk stockings present Mrs. Sommers with the opportunity to pursue her own desires, rather than those of society or her husband, and value her happiness and pleasure with the highest importance.
The Pair of Silk Stockings Quotes in A Pair of Silk Stockings
She went on feeling the soft, sheeny luxurious things—with both hands now, holding them up to see them glisten, and to feel them glide serpent-like through her fingers.