Title: A Pair of Silk Stockings
Author: Kate Chopin
Genre: Classics/Short Stories/Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Started: 26th May 2016
Completed: 26th May 2016
Summary: A short story by Kate Chopin. The story takes place in an unnamed city–a city large enough to have a department store, a fashionable restaurant, a theatre, and a cable car–probably in the early 1890s.
‘At night, among the reeds on the bayou, Chicot could still hear the woman’s wail, mingled now with the croaking of the frogs…’
Penguin’s Little Black Classics edition of Kate Chopin’s 1897 short story A Pair of Silk Stockings actually includes 5 short stories, including the title story, and it was wonderful value for money.
Kate Chopin is probably most well-known for her novel The Awakening which was published in 1899 but she was a profound short story writer and she wrote a variety of stories for both adults and children.
The Little Black Classics series are either short stories or snippets of larger classic texts. They’re very affordable (usually only 80p or £1 in the UK) and some of them are very good. I’ve only had a chance to read the ones that feature short stories but I do plan on reading Circles of Hell, a short snippet of Dante’s Divine Comedy, soonish.
This review is going to be a little different as I’m going to write a little bit about each short stories featured in this small collection.
Désirée’s Baby (1893)
I enjoyed this short story. It deals with ideas of race in a specific place and a specific time and I just found it really interesting. The story is only 11 pages long but I still didn’t expect the ending. Chopin is a wonderful writer and she manages to pack such an amazing plot with interesting characters into a very small amount of words. I do think that this is one of Chopin’s more well-known short stories so if you have any thoughts about it let me know.
Miss McEnders (c.1897)
I also really liked the second story in the collection. It’s an interesting story about wealth and social class, and the unscrupulous methods that people used to make money, as well as the consequences of having a child out of wedlock during the 1890s. It’s just packed full of social critique and I loved it.
The Story of an Hour (1894)
This is the shortest story in the collection at only 6 pages long and it was by far the strangest for me. I’m not sure whether or not I enjoyed it. The plot is fairly simple: Louise Mallard has heart trouble and she is informed that her husband is dead. She loved her husband dearly but she begins to imagine the freedom of being a widow and she has a newfound feeling of independence. I love that Chopin engages with the idea of widowhood as a status as it was the only way for women to gain independence in this era. I’ve always found stories about widows from before the 20th century to be very interesting.
Nég Créol (c.1897)
I don’t think that I liked this one. I’m not sure. I must admit that I didn’t quite understand it, I must have not read it properly, but I just found it a bit weird. I also think that this is one of her least well-known stories as I couldn’t even find a definitive date for it. The plot is about a black man, Chicot, in the 1890s who has a platonic relationship with mademoiselle de Montallaine despite them being of different races and different classes. When the mademoiselle dies he withdraws into himself and her doesn’t attend her funeral. The plot is much more complicated than the short summary I’ve given but I do think I need to read it again because I think I just skipped through it. It’s only 13 pages long so I should have given it more attention.
A Pair of Silk Stockings (1897)
I really loved this story. The main character comes into a small fortune of $15 (remember, it’s the 1890s) and she spends it on clothing for her children. She’s exhausted at the end of her shopping trip but she spots a pair of silk stockings and so she abandons the idea of shopping for her children and decides to buy the stockings instead. She focuses on herself for the day, indulging in things that make her happy. She eventually has to return home but she wishes “that the cable car would never stop anywhere, but go on and on with her forever.” It’s a really poignant story about consumerism but also about what women gave up to become wives and mothers during this time. She relishes her own selfishness and she regains her self-esteem, if only for one day.
This little book is great value for money and it doesn’t take very long to read at all. It’s worth spending an hour or so reading these short stories because they’re thoroughly enjoyable. I also think that they’re a great way to experience Kate Chopin for the first time because you can understand the environment and issues she wrote about. I’m a fan of Chopin and I loved three of the five stories (and sort of enjoyed the other two) so I’d definitely recommend this collection to anyone.
If you don’t want to buy the book but you want to read one of two of the stories they’re all available to read online. Just follow the links that I’ve provided.