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In his Essay "The Art of Fiction" Henry James speaks through his character Walter Bessant about twelve points dealing with how fiction is an art. Three of these points which I found to be important were how fiction can be portrayed as a form of art but he explains also that fiction has no set form in which a book can be written. He views fiction as being more artistic than paintings and he also believes that fiction is not to be judged by morality like a painting might be. Henry James states "A novel is in its broadest definition a personal impression of life; that, to begin with, constitutes its value, which is greater or less according to the intensity of the impression.
But there will be no intensity at all, and therefore no value, unless there is freedom to feel and say. " (P. 1142). This personal impression of life that Henry James is speaking about here is what is portrayed in Kate Chopin's's lice of life short story "A Pair of Silk Stockings" This short story is based in early to mid 1900 's in a average town. In this story Mrs. Sommers is a middle aged mother of a handful of children, and has lack of joy anymore after her husband's death. She is small framed with ragged old clothes and very thoughtful and caring mother who always puts the children's needs ahead of her own. Her children are the only thing that has consumed her mind in several years until unexpectedly she finds fifteen dollars.
In comparison to the setting of the book, fifteen dollars was considered to be a large sum of money, about the same of about a hundred dollars in today's economic standards. Even before Mrs. Sommers starts her shopping spree, she prioritizes what to buy in her mind for her children, a dollar. She knows exactly what to buy and how much to spend on each since she knows the value of a bargain. During her spree, she is lost in her own world and purchases items for herself instead of her children.
Her purchases included a new pair of silk stockings, fitted gloves, new boots and two high priced magazines. Next, she is drawn to a restaurant that she has only strolled by admiring, only to go inside for a quick bite, which is typically out of the question for her. After her snack, she attends a play with other upper class women. She now stands and waits for a cable car hoping that her dream will never come to an end.
She relived the years that have all but passed her by. Eventually, Mrs. Sommers' trip does end but with no regrets. She has finally pampered herself and lived the life of the women that she has only admired to this point. Henry James' points through Walter Bessant can be compared to the short story "A Pair of Silk Stockings" in the sense that the detail in which this story was written one can visualize the story frame by frame as though it was a beautiful masterpiece. Kate Chopin uses a real life scenario to paint a mental picture about a struggling mother pampering herself to escape the pain and suffering of her lower class, poverty stricken life.
The vocabulary that Kate Chopin uses to explain the joy and fulfillment of the mother when she finds the money is an example of what Henry James is speaking about when he states that fiction can be more beautiful than a masterpiece.
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Research essay sample on Kate Chopin Silk Stockings