Kate Chopin's Short Stories

The Female Characters

In Kate Chopin's short works: A Pair of Silk Stockings, Desiree's Baby and A Respectable Woman. I would like to discuss the female characters in all three short stories and what they represent, I'm working on a term paper.

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"In "A Pair of Silk Stockings," she portrays the quiet struggle of a woman searching for a balance between family life and personal satisfaction.

The story's main character is Mrs. Sommers, a wife and mother. Her family is very poor, and she is trying to pick up a few items of clothing for her children. On this particular day, she is tired and worn out as she goes about her errands. She is an expert at finding bargains and saving money, always looking for a good sale, but she finds a pair of silk stockings that she desires for herself. They feel nice against her skin, and the store has several in her size and in various colors. She buys them and immediately puts them on. Instead of continuing with her errands and heading toward the bargain bins as she normally does, Mrs. Sommers gets fitted for gloves, something she has not done for some time. After getting gloves, she is hungry, and treats herself to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Later she goes to the theater, sitting among the elegantly dressed women and men crowding the theater. Each time she does something for herself, she becomes more comfortable with herself. Consequently, she dreads going home more and more with each activity. The story ends with Mrs. Sommers sitting in a cable car, wishing that it would continue traveling forever."

"In “Désirée’s Baby,” Chopin offers a compelling critique of the class-based and racial prejudice that permeated the attitudes of the antebellum South. In addition, through the relationship between Désirée and Armand, Chopin explores the precarious status of both those without a family and those of biracial descent. Désirée is unlucky enough to end up on the wrong side of both of these characteristics, it seems, and in the wrenching latter part of the tale, she turns her social isolation from a mental and emotional state to a physical one as she goes across the bayou and disappears from civilization. As in “Beyond the Bayou,” the bayou is a symbolic border, but Désirée loses herself by crossing it while the heroine of “Beyond the Bayou” gains a new life."

"In "A Respectable Woman," Kate Chopin delves into the psychology of Mrs. Baroda, a wealthy woman with a loving husband who faces temptation in the person of Gouvernail, a polite, unassuming visitor to the Baroda plantation. Like the heroine of "A Pair of Silk Stockings," Mrs. Baroda is enticed early in the story with the prospect of a change from a quieter, more ordinary life, but whereas Mrs. Sommers gives in to her desires with relative ease and begins spending her extra money after limited deliberation, Mrs. Baroda does not instantly recognize what she really wants and eventually struggles with the self-imposed limitations of her identity as "a respectable woman." (3)


(1) http://www.enotes.com/a-pair-of-silk-stockings/ (2) http://www.gradesaver.com/kate-chopins-short-stories/study-guide/section4/ (3) http://www.gradesaver.com/kate-chopins-short-stories/study-guide/section5/