A Pair of Silk Stockings

by

Kate Chopin

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Themes and Colors
Women and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Consumerism and Escapism Theme Icon
Social Class and Belonging Theme Icon
Subverting the Male Gaze in the Public Sphere Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Pair of Silk Stockings, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Women and Gender Roles

Kate Chopin’s “A Pair of Silk Stockings” tells the story of Mrs. Sommers, a poor woman charged as the sole caretaker of her four children who experiences a sensuous awakening when shopping for her family. Published in 1897—a time when ideal womanhood was often synonymous with motherhood, resulting in the widespread belief that women must take full responsibility for childcare and housework—Chopin’s story explores the boundaries of traditional gender roles. While nineteenth-century social norms…

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Consumerism and Escapism

The 1890s brought with them the rise of modern American consumer culture; the Industrial Revolution had caused substantial growth in production and commerce, and it continued to transform the economy in the United States. Chopin’s 1897 short story is fittingly littered with references to this modern consumerism; the reader learns early on that Mrs. Sommers is a veritable shopper, adept at finding bargains and one “who could stand for hours” in order to buy a…

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Social Class and Belonging

In Kate Chopin’s “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” Mrs. Sommers is given the almost impossible task of navigating America’s nineteenth-century Puritanism—and the moral judgement it cast over poor, lower class women like her—as well as the increasing social pressures placed on women to succumb to the demands of a booming consumer culture. Chopin uses her protagonist to explore the superficial elitism of an American class structure that asserted double moral standards—on the one hand encouraging…

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Subverting the Male Gaze in the Public Sphere

The male gaze refers to the act of presenting women from a masculine perspective, a patriarchal form of representation that has dominated literary and artistic works throughout history. Due to the hostile public reception of women writers throughout the early nineteenth-century, it was not uncommon for them to publish their works under male pseudonyms. By the end of the century, however, writers like Kate Chopin were being openly published (although not without some outrage), and…

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