Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Katherine Mansfield

I really enjoyed these stories by Katherine Mansfield, particularly “Prelude” and “Bliss.” I noticed some similar characteristics about Mansfield’s stories compared to Woolf’s short stories from last week. One of the major things I noticed was there seemed to be little attention to plot throughout the stories. In “Prelude” the narrative is circular once again, with a lot of stream of consciousness between the different thoughts, especially those of the women. The narrative slides from one woman’s thoughts of her previous home to another’s dissatisfaction with life. There is a lot of attention to detail as the children notice everything around, especially with close attention to the colors around them. The attention to color is something I noticed somewhat last week, though I am noticing it more in Mansfield’s stories this week. So much attention to detail, while little attention to plot appears to be a reoccurring theme in the modernist stories. I wonder, as these are the second group of short stories we’ve read, if this is not a characteristic that is particular to women. Are Woolf and Mansfield purposely writing this way to show the difference between women’s thought process and a man, or is this just a new way to write? It is obvious that Mansfield, like Woolf, is interested in women and their rights. In “Prelude” Linda and Aunt Beryl are taking tea while Beryl begins to dream of how her life might be without her husband and Linda suffers from headaches. It is clear that these women are not happy in their current place in life. While Linda’s happiness is a little less obvious, Aunt Beryl is likely suffering from depression, though there are enough indications that she would be believed simply to be crazy. Aunt Beryl knows that having “money of her own” is enough to give her the independence she needs, but instead by the end of the story she is just left to feel “flippant and silly” about herself. “Bliss” reminds me of Mrs. Dalloway with the narrative that is structured around one day that looks toward a dinner party. However, the character of Bertha is very different than the character of Mrs. Dalloway. Bertha seems stereotypically characterized by feelings and her lack of control over them. There is so much focus on this “bliss” that Bertha keeps feeling everywhere she goes and I’m not quite certain what to do with it. She is clearly a naïve character, though at times it seems she knowingly ignores the truth. It is almost as if Mansfield is suggesting that Bertha does suffer from “hysteria.” Bertha does note that she is becoming “hysterical” though she does not use the word in that context. “Bliss” also explores the nontraditional sexual attraction. It is interesting that when Bertha realizes her attraction to Pearl, she finds for the first time that she is attracted to her husband. These themes seem to be an early experiment in breaking the traditional structures of narrative and sexuality.

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