“The Garden Party” “The Doll’s House” “Bliss” “Miss Brill” Katherine Mansfield, born in the country of New Zealand was said to be ‘the best short story writer of her time’.(1) The types of short stories that Katherine Mansfield wrote were mostly a ‘slice of life’, where she used real life experiences to express her themes and ideas. If you were to read one of her stories once through, in a way that you would read a whole book, you would surely miss out on the way Katherine Mansfield conveys meaning in her stories. Throughout her stories she uses every word for a purpose. I understand that economy of style is an aspect of the short story genre, but Katherine Mansfield sought to enhance this, and I believe she really used her writing as an art getting every detail right to make her short stories full and rich with meaning. I was engaged by the way she could take something so simple, such as objects, like lamps and hats and make it represent something so immense. Katherine Mansfield was born into the Victorian era, and was part of a middle classed family. During the Victorian time there was much distinction between the social classes. Katherine Mansfield however, was one who did not want to conform in order to please others, but saw the upper class as being devoid of warmth and feeling for humanity. This is revealed through some of her short stories, where her own life is seen through different characters. Her determined, self-willed, and challenging character confronts society and through her short stories Katherine Mansfield questions civilisation and its rights and responsibilities. Symbolism
Symbolism is used to show us rather than tell us things of importance and meaning, and in all four short stories Katherine Mansfield communicates through the language of symbolism. At the beginning of the short story ‘Miss Brill’ the character Miss Brill takes out her fur piece to the park. She treats the fur with much respect, as though it is her only friend. We see that the fur is a symbol of her loneliness in life. When she later wears the fur in the park we see that by wearing it she feels a since of normality and pride. Also in some ways she herself is like the fur. When Miss Brill takes out the fur from ‘its box’ she comments on how she had, ‘shaken out the moth powders, given it a good brush and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes”. Just like the fur, Miss Brill too is old and has been in her ‘box’ meaning she is lonely and longs for companionship. The symbol of the fur reveals the message that we all have a desire to fit in, to feel wanted, to be included. No one wants to be alone. This symbolism really pushed my mind to think about the elderly in today’s society and whether or not I am giving them the respect and kindness they need, and deserve. Similarly, in “Bliss” the pear tree represents a state in the characters life. Bertha in the story mentions the pear tree on several occasions and we discover that the pear tree relates closely to her just like the fur in ‘Miss Brill’. Bertha is going through a time of happiness and bliss, though she doesn’t know exactly why she is feeling this way. The pear tree is in the garden and is described as being in ‘fullest richest bloom’. Bertha also is at her richest bloom, as illustrated by, “And she seemed to see on her eyelids he lovely pear tree, its wide open blossoms as a symbol of her own life”. At the end however the pear tree and its meaning have changed. Bertha discovers that her husband Harry is having an affair, Berthas mood changes, but the pear tree stays the same. The very last sentence of the story, “But the pear tree was as lovely as ever and as full of flower and as still”, shows that though Bertha’s mood and circumstances have changed, the bliss and the feelings she had for her husband were still there. Katherine Mansfield deliberately leaves us with the picture of the pear tree, and suggests that...
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