25 February 2013
A Realistic Escape
“I am no bird;” mentioned Jane Austen, “and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” Women’s yearning for individual independence has been prominent in every period of history. Over time, women have felt the need to be recognised more and more as individuals with qualities and capabilities that contribute to society in ways outside of the home and traditional occupations. Stories written in the Realism period, such as A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin and A Wagner Matinée by Willa Cather, emphasise the desire women had to be free of social pressure and to live life the way they wanted. Women of the Realism period pursued escape because they lacked freedom.
Women often try to find their own personal freedom by indulging in activities that give them a feeling of absolute bliss. In A Pair of Silk Stockings, Chopin uses the character of Mrs. Sommers to illustrate how women used money in order to feel independent. A Pair of Silk Stockings is a short story about how Mrs. Sommers, a woman who is not particularly wealthy, acquires a large sum of money. Her initial intention was to provide her children with shoes, caps, a gown, fabric for shirts, and stockings— items which they are rarely able to afford. However, the thrill of buying luxurious items and being able to mingle with the wealthy upper-class quickly draws her in. She falls into a dream-like state, indulging in whatever she pleases. “She was not thinking at all. She seemed for the time to be taking a rest from that labourious and fatiguing function and to have abandoned herself to some mechanical impulse that directed her actions and freed her of responsibility” (Chopin 506). Because Mrs. Sommers did not regularly have as much money as she had acquired, she was not accustomed to having such financial freedom. She was not used to spending her money without the persistent issue of frugality stirring in the back of her mind....
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