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 A Pair of Silk Stockings quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Pair of Silk Stockings. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of A Pair of Silk Stockings published in 1976.).
A Pair of Silk Stockings Quotes
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Pair of Silk Stockings appears in A Pair of Silk Stockings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Pair of Silk Stockings
As she braces herself to begin shopping, Mrs. Sommers accidentally brushes her hand against a pair of silk stockings . Although the stockings are on sale (marked down from $2.50 to $1.98), they are... (full context)
...“bargain counter,” Mrs. Sommers promptly goes to the dressing room to put on her new silk stockings . As she does so, she experiences a strange, exciting sensation. For the first time,... (full context)
...for the shoe department. The clerk there is surprised by the combination of her luxurious silk stockings and otherwise shabby appearance, but Mrs. Sommers is in a good mood, and is immune... (full context)