Kate Chopin’s “A Pair of Silk Stockings” and “Desiree’s Baby” are both great stories. Both literature give readers the smooth and easy transition throughout the story, and then leave the readers with disappointing and jaw dropping details in the end. Both of Chopin’s stories portray typical women who have different wants and needs and emphasize their continued life struggles.
In “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” fifteen dollars has been enough to bring Mrs. Sommers back to her past and enjoy the life she used to have. Although, the items that she has purchased will stay with her, that does not change the fact that the moment she leaves the cable car she will have to go back to her family and face the life that she is trying to escape from. In Chopin’s story “Desiree’s Baby,” Armand express his love for his wife Desiree, not displaying any signs racism.
He made it clear that her unknown past does not matter to him. All of that changed the moment they had a son who show traces of African ancestry. Armand rejected Desiree, so the devastated young mother left L’Abri with her son and both of them were never have seen again.
In both stories, the author uses many literary techniques to express how pride and selfishness can turn someone into a different person. Chopin’s symbolism is very rich in description and filled with hidden meanings, which makes both of the stories very extraordinary. The first part of the story makes clear about Mrs. Sommers love for her Family that has changed the moment she temporarily leaves her reality in order to live and feel her past. In this short story, Chopin presents the message clearly to her readers how much Mrs. Sommers wants to escape from reality.
In “A Pair of Silk Stockings” the fifteen dollars she accumulates represents her “better days,” (2) which is the past life she has been missing. The silk stockings are used many times to symbolize luxuries, and the different 2 shades of stockings are made visible by Chopin to represent life pleasures, freedom, and happiness “some lavender, some all black” (2). Mrs. Sommers abandoning her present life is clear when Chopin makes the statement of exchanging “her cotton stockings” (2) to her “new silk ones” (2).
In the story, author uses symbols significant on how the protagonist used to live her life. She uses the “shabby old” (2) to describe her shopping bag, which resembles to her current life status. Gloves and high-priced magazines represent glamour where there are wide choices of “pleasant things,” (3). Mrs. Sommers realizes that her life before was better than what she thought it was.
Narrator expresses the conclusion of what Mrs. Sommers thinks about her life before: “The damask was even more spotless than it had seemed” (4). Lastly, the cable car represents her ride towards her better days. Author sadly exposes the protagonists’ thoughts of not wanting to return home, wishing for the cable car to never stop and keep going “go on and on with her forever” (5).
All the symbolism in the story expresses Mrs. Sommers longing for her past life, her “better days” (1) which can be no longer part of her future. Chopin’s use of her symbols tried to give the readers the clearest message possible. The brilliant use of symbolism in “Desiree’s Baby” sends message to the readers about the sensitivity of the subject racism back in the days, when the story is set. Chopin uses colors to tell the story of the characters’ backgrounds.
The Caucasian race was presented by the “yellow nurse,” (2) and she use “La Blanche’s little quadroon boys” (3) to represent mixed race or bi-racial. L’Abri and Madame Valmonde are also used to symbolize human feelings and behavior.
The L’Abri, is the plantation owned by Aubigny family. The L’Abri symbolizes sadness and Chopin elaborates that when Madame Valmonde visits Desiree and describes the plantation as “a sad looking place” (2), with lots of “solemn oaks” (2). Desiree’s mother, Madame Valmonde, is used to symbolize unconditional love. She asks her daughter to come home after all 3 the heartaches Armand is causing her. The story turns out that Armand’s mother has a dark secret, and that Armand is the bi-racial one and not Desiree.
Throughout the story, Chopin uses symbolism to communicate to readers and show how race can be a big issue and can change someone’s life in a snap during the latter nineteenth century. The author also uses foreshadowing and gave hints and clues in both of the stories. It creates suspense and makes the readers wonder what will the ending of the story can be. Chopin uses the first paragraph in “A Pair of Silk Stockings” to show some hints on what fifteen dollars can do to Mrs. Sommers. In this case, the author foreshadows the arrival of Mrs.
Sommers in the store stating her exhaustion. However, the moment she realized that she is feeling the texture of the silk stockings, she describe it as “soft, sheeny luxurious things” (2) and “glide serpent-like through her fingers” (2). Chopin uses the description “serpent-like” (2) to hint temptation. This effectively foreshadows the actions presented by Mrs. Sommers in the story. Where, she falls for the temptation and end up buying luxurious things all for herself. In “Desiree’s Baby”, Chopin uses foreshadowing to give readers a clue about the hidden mystery of who is of biracial descent in the story.
Chopin describes Desiree “in her soft white muslins and laces” (2) in her first appearance in the story. Another hint stated as “Desiree had not changed the thin white garment” (5), the color white foreshadows Desiree’s background. Clues reveals in the end of the story that Desiree is of white decent. However, the technique used to reveal Armand’s bloodline or history is the same with how the author reveals of Desiree’s.
Chopin used “Armand’s dark, handsome face” (3), and “Look at my hand; whiter than yours, Armand,” (4) the foreshadowing in the story made it not a surprise when Armand read his mother’s letter and discovered the truth behind his son’s questionable race, that he is bi-racial and not Desiree. 4 Both stories of Chopin sets up the conflicts of situations in the beginning, and irony is well present in the end. Both literatures leave the readers with great lesson to learn.
Ironic situation is when Mrs. Sommers ponders for days if she would invest or spend the fifteen dollars, “she did not wish to act hastily, to do anything she might afterward regret” (1). That night, she decided to spend the money for her children, and even envision her kids to look nicely and “dainty” (1). However, it is ironic that after she touches the silk stockings, she decided to give herself a treat and end up spending all her money on luxuries for herself, leaving nothing for her children.
Another irony, when Chopin described the protagonist “Mrs. Sommers as 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,” (1) when in fact, Mrs. Sommers ended up buying nothing but expensive items. She never worry about the price and she purchase items quickly, impulsively.
However, in “Desiree’s Baby”, the irony is that throughout the story Armand is blind, not knowing his history and the family secret. Racism sets up the story to draw a jaw dropping details and give their readers a shocking ending. In the beginning of the story, race does not seem to matter to Armand. He accused Desiree of lying about her ancestry. After pushing his wife and son away, Armand discovers a letter that reveals his family background “that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery” (6).
The detail about Armand’s race is intentionally placed in the end of the story, Chopin finds that effective, where readers tend to feel hate and anger towards Armand for being prejudice. He blamed and pushed Desiree away, when he is the one with black race in his bloodline. The point of view differs, in how each of the stories is told.
Chopin uses third-person limited omniscient in “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” so readers knows the thoughts and feelings of 5 Mrs. Sommers, but readers are not provided with details and thoughts of the other characters. Characters in the story whose thoughts are not provided: Waiter that served Mrs. Sommers, Lady at the Theater, and the Man inside the cable car. However, In “Desiree’s Baby,” Chopin uses third person point of view but reveals the thoughts and feelings of every character in the story, both Armand and Desiree.
Chopin written some of Desiree’s feelings to know how exactly the young Mother feels “there was something in the air menacing her peace” (3) and “Desiree was miserable enough to die” (3). Both stories provided enough thoughts to give readers some details to analyze each characters feelings and dilemma. The theme of the story “A Pair of Silk Stockings” centers on how people become selfish and self-centered. In “Desiree’s Baby,” the story shows how people are capable of doing evil things to gain power and freedom.
Kate Chopin, who uses the literary techniques to help readers expose the mysteries hidden in each of her short stories. Author portray “A Pair of Silk Stockings” and “Desiree’s Baby” both beautifully. Both stories serves the reader’s moral lesson and of course surprising ending. Works cited Chopin, Kate. “A Pair of Silk Stockings. ” Americanliterature. com. Web. 14 Oct. 2013. Chopin, Kate. “Desiree’s Baby. ” Americanliterature. com. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.