Q. Write a note on the character of Mrs Sommers in A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin.
In Kate Chopin’s short story, “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” we encounter Mrs Sommers, the lead character portrayed with profound intricacy and emotional depth. Living a life marked by economic limitations, Mrs Sommers commits herself fully to the care and well-being of her children.
Her character is a testament to self-sacrifice, as she unfailingly places the needs of her family above her wishes and yearnings. Despite her financial hardships, Mrs Sommers bravely faces each day, carrying her children’s future on her shoulders with resilience.
Her existence vividly embodies maternal devotion and the degree of selflessness it often requires. However, her character is not one-dimensional. The narrative subtly hints at her past life of relative comfort and affluence.
It suggests hidden depths and suppressed desires beneath her present circumstances. Mrs Sommers is a woman caught between her past and present, her desires and duties. She navigates through her world, often suppressing her needs in favour of her children, yet yearning for a taste of the life she once knew.
In essence, Mrs Sommers is a compelling representation of the human struggle between personal desires and harsh realities, illustrating the transformative power of circumstances on a person’s character.
Characterization of Mrs Sommers
In Kate Chopin’s short story, “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” the protagonist, Mrs Sommers, is introduced as a complex, multifaceted character grappling with economic hardships and hidden desires.
As the narrative progresses, her character evolves, revealing a profound depth of inner conflict spurred by an unexpected monetary windfall. The exploration of Mrs Sommers’ character uncovers her motherly instincts, selfless demeanour, nostalgia for a past life, and the emergence of long-suppressed desires.
The Selfless and Devoted Mother
Kate Chopin initially portrays Mrs Sommers as a selfless, devoted mother who prioritizes her family’s needs above hers. She personifies the role of a guardian, perpetually engrossed in her children’s well-being. She ensures their fundamental needs are fulfilled, even if it means sacrificing her comfort.
This maternal instinct is evident when she contemplates spending the newfound money on her children’s clothes, the house’s needs, and essentials for the pantry. She takes care of her children’s needs and welfare. It mirrors her deep-rooted sense of responsibility and selflessness.
The Selflessness of Mrs Sommers
Mrs Sommers’ selflessness defines her character and motivates her actions. The ever-looming economic constraints have curtailed her desires and honed her focus on her family’s well-being. Her habitual scrimping, saving, and constant struggle to provide for her family overshadow any room for personal indulgence.
This strong image of a selfless and dedicated mother sets the stage for the story. It establishes Mrs Sommers as a character who courageously confronts challenges to provide for her family.
Mrs Sommers’ Past
Mrs Sommers’ character is not only shaped by her current circumstances but also significantly influenced by her past. Kate Chopin subtly hints at Mrs Sommers’ previous life of relative comfort. It offers a vital context for her actions when faced with the small windfall.
The sudden influx of money enables her to momentarily reminisce about her past life, where she could afford luxuries like silk stockings without a second thought. Though faded, this past life provides an essential backdrop against her present struggles. It offers a comprehensive picture of Mrs Sommers’ character.
Mrs Sommers’ Suppressed Desires
The discovery of the silk stockings marks a pivotal point in the narrative. It brings forth a suppressed aspect of Mrs Sommers’ character — her concealed desires. She is drawn to the luxurious feeling of the silk stockings against her skin. The feelings catalyze a profound change in her behaviour.
Her momentary hesitation gives way to indulgence, revealing a dormant yearning for personal luxuries. As she moves from one store to another, buying items solely for herself. Later, it revels in a leisurely meal and a theatre show; Mrs Sommers’ actions starkly contrast her usual life.
This unexpected transformation is a potent depiction of her internal longing, a desire to regain the comfort and enjoyment she once knew.
Mrs Sommers’ Inner Conflict
Mrs Sommers’ transformation reveals a profound inner struggle. As she embraces her sudden freedom and personal indulgences, an underlying sense of guilt and discomfort becomes discernible. Though filled with enjoyment, her trip to the theatre ends with her dreading the journey back home.
It symbolizes her inevitable return to reality and possibly underlying guilt for allowing herself personal pleasures while her family continues battling their financial constraints.
The Resilience of Mrs Sommers
Despite her unexpected day of indulgence, Mrs Sommers showcases remarkable resilience. She knows that her excursion is temporary, but she seizes this fleeting opportunity to escape her daily struggles momentarily.
Despite knowing she must return to her usual life, this short break offers a rejuvenating change from her daily chores. The contrast between Mrs Sommers’ day of indulgence and her usual life underscores the complexity of human desires and responsibilities.
It highlights her inner strength and determination to navigate between her desires and her commitment to her family.
Mrs Sommers as a Symbol of Endurance
Chopin’s Mrs Sommers is not only a woman struggling with poverty but also a symbol of endurance and adaptation. Even as she gives in to her desires, she does so with a consciousness of her realities. She navigates the wave of indulgence and savours it, but she never forgets the tide of responsibility waiting for her.
This delicate balance between giving in to her desires and shouldering her responsibilities makes her character relatable and realistic. It reflects the struggle of countless women in similar circumstances.
Kate Chopin’s portrayal of Mrs Sommers in A Pair of Silk Stockings is an intricate exploration of a woman’s psyche under economic duress. The unveiling of her character, from a selfless mother to a woman harbouring suppressed desires, presents a deep understanding of her inner conflicts and the influence of her circumstances on her life decisions.
The narrative insightfully showcases the myriad facets of Mrs Sommers’ character, making her a relatable and empathetic figure while highlighting the resilience and strength of a woman navigating life’s challenges.