Mrs. Sommers, of Kate Chopin’s “A Pair of Silk Stockings” faces a major Man-vs.-Society conflict. She is a perfect example of how humans are tempted by material gain, “the life of luxury”, and the vicious way society judges things (or people).
Society views people who live in the lap of luxury as “gods”, they are above those who are not so fortunate. Anyone can fall prey to this common societal problem, even innocent “Little Mrs. Sommers”. This is evident when she can feel the fifteen dollars in her porte-monnaie and she says “it gave her a feeling of importance such as she had not enjoyed for years”.
At first, Kate Chopin portrays Mrs. Sommers as an innocent little lady who believes in “family first”. This is apparent when Mrs. Sommers “walks about in a dreamy state” contemplating what to buy and ends up with a huge plan to make her little brood look “fresh and dainty”. To those around her, Mrs. Sommers is this innocent family lady.
However, the minute she buys the silk stockings is the minute she becomes a different Mrs. Sommers. All of a sudden everything she has is not good enough, she looks at her shopping bag as “shabby” and “old”. Her parcel is “very small”.
At this point, she wants more. She begins to think without reason and loses her sense of responsibility when she puts the stockings on in the ladies’ room.
Mrs. Sommers is “not going through any acute mental process or reasoning with herself”, she is “not thinking at all” at this point.
Mrs. Sommers’s mind is not working as it used to at the beginning. All of a sudden nothing is too expensive, she eats the expensive restaurant, buys shoes, gloves, and magazines “such as she had become accustomed to reading in those days”.
These things give Mrs. Sommers a “feeling of assurance, a sense of belonging to the well-dressed multitude”.
Now, she is one of those rich important people, and everyone knows it, thanks to all the material things she has. This becomes evident when Chopin says “She was fastidious, and she was not too easily pleased”.
The end of the play signifies the end of Mrs. Sommers’s “luxurious times”. Mrs. Sommers is lost with all the other “gaudy” women, when, “like a dream ended”, the play ends, and Mrs. Sommers is struck by reality.
The reality that she is not one of them at heart; she is merely Little Mrs. Sommers. To the man on the cable car, Mrs. Sommers looks like “another one of those rich women” when internally, there is a “powerful longing, a poignant wish to go on and on” that goes undetected by the average individual.
When the man, representing the average individual, is looking at her, it becomes apparent that because of material things, people can seem to be something (or someone) they are not.
So, in conclusion, just because society views something as “the right way”, or “the best kind”, it does not mean that it is the right way or the best kind. Like Mrs. Sommers, humans will almost always pay for being followers.
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