Analysis of the Personality of Mrs. Somers As Depicted By Kate Chopin in Her Book, A Pair of Silk Stockings
Longing for the luxuries you could carelessly afford, supplying your time and support to everyone else so there is none left for yourself, not having to question if a person will assess your decisions, and being able to enjoy yourself once every blue moon… all of these feelings, these guilty pleasures, are things that Mrs. Somers, from Kate Chopin’s “A Pair of Silk Stockings”, is familiar with. An inclination for more is a feeling in every person, no matter how tall, no matter the culture, no matter the gender. However, the guilt followed by fulfilling that internal desire when you have children, or a family you could help instead, is overwhelming. Chopin does a phenomenal job at depicting the feeling of the devil and angel on a mom’s shoulder when she wants to indulge, and successfully conveys how easy it is to go off of impulse, trash that pair of decrepit cotton stockings, and buy that beautiful pair of silk stockings.
Any person with the responsibility of taking care of another human being, whether it be financially or emotionally, understands the pride that comes from ensuring your dependent is happy, or fed, but will also understand the longing for luxuries you had before. “A dollar or two should be added to the price usually paid for Janie’s shoes, which would insure their lasting an appreciable time longer…” (“A Pair of Silk Stockings”, 1) The quote above is the thought process of Mrs. Somers. When she finds herself to be the owner of fifteen dollars, she immediately begins to think about how it should be spent, and her first thought for investment is, of course, her children. Chopin shows through the main character, Mrs. Somers, the understanding she has for giving all of your support to someone other than you, just to make sure they are happy and well. “…between getting the children fed and the place righted, and preparing herself for the shopping bout, she had actually forgotten to eat any luncheon at all!” (“A Pair of Silk Stockings”, 1) Like mothers everywhere, Mrs. Somers is so focused on preparing her children for the day, that she forgets about something that she needs, lunch! Every person you see walking down the street has experienced a phenomenon called flow. This flow is when a person is so caught up in doing something, or a list of items, that every other detail is forgotten about or ignored. “[Flow] involves the ability to maintain and manipulate information in one’s mind while ignoring irrelevant distractions and intruding thoughts.” (Scott Barry Kaufman, “In Defense of Working Memory Training”). The author shows this flow in reality. Chopin’s, Mrs. Sommers, gets distracted a couple of times in the story. Originally, it was the distraction from personal necessities because of the responsibilities of Mrs. Sommers, but soon after, it was the distraction from responsibility because she was reliving and reminiscing her past ability to splurge on herself and purchase the sizable amount of luxuries.
A preponderance of people believe that it is necessary to constantly be doing something productive, because there is regularly something to be done. In other words, if nothing is getting accomplished, time is being wasted. “She had no time—no second of time to devote to the past. The needs of the present absorbed her every faculty.” (“A Pair of Silk Stockings, 1). This quote represents a mother’s inability to enjoy time for themselves due to the responsibility of a parent to ensure that their loved ones are on track, and everything is in order. Chopin describes Mrs. Sommers inability to do anything, like reminiscing on the good old days, because of the constant support needed from her children. As a mother, Mrs. Sommers is so busy with staying in lines for an extended amount of time just so she can afford to purchase the fabric she needs so she can make the clothes for her children. Mrs. Sommers stands in the lines at the clothing stores for a sale, because like every other parent, she wants the best possible for her children. “Mrs. Sommers was one who knew the value of bargains; who could stand for hours making her way inch by inch toward the desired object that was selling below cost.” (“A Pair of Silk Stockings”, 1) So, since she cannot afford to buy the luxurious cloth like the other moms are able to do, she sacrifices any of the time she might have had to read a book, take a nap, or even eat lunch, to give her daughter a new dress so she is not ashamed of her clothes.
The painful, anxious feeling that sits in the bottom of a person’s stomach when the thought of whether, or not, they are considered ‘acceptable’ for other people. Mrs. Sommers is incredibly fond of the mysterious character of a restaurant she used to pass by, that sits on the corner. This restaurant always caught her attention because of how perfect it looked on the outside, between the flawless people who walked in, the impeccable waiters, the stainless windows, or the dazzling crystal, Mrs. Sommers never felt welcome in a fancy place like that. “When she entered her appearance created no surprise, no consternation, as she had half feared it might.” (“A Pair of Silk Stockings”, 3). For a lot of people, most of the decisions they make subconsciously question if it would be of quality for someone else, or if another person would not look down upon them if they made this decision, or if there social status would drop, or rise, if this decision was made. This constant need for approval from everyone else is a feeling that we have in us since birth. (Michael J Formica, Why We Care About What Other People Think of Us“) Chopin’s Mrs. Sommers’ recent purchase inspires her to enter the restaurant, and to her surprise, everyone continues with their lunch. No one knows that she is poor and that she just bought her new outfit, they think Mrs.Sommers is just like them – rich. A rush of relief sweeps over Mrs. Sommers as she realizes that no one is considering she is not one of them.
In Conclusion, Kate Chopin expertly depicts the constant battle of making the correct decision for everyone else, leaving your personal decisions for last, the issues a mother has because of their constant care for their children, and how easy it is to give into temptation.
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