Bliss by Katherine Mansfield Copyright Notice ©1998-2002; ©2002 by Gale Cengage. Gale is a division of Cengage Learning.

Gale and Gale Cengage are trademarks used herein under license. For complete copyright information on these eNotes please visit: eNotes: Table of Contents 1. Bliss: Introduction 2. Bliss: Katherine Mansfield Biography 3. Bliss: Summary 4. Bliss: Characters 5. Bliss: Themes 6. Bliss: Style 7. Bliss: Historical Context 8. Bliss: Critical Overview 9. Bliss: Essays and Criticism ¨ Feelings of Bliss ¨ Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss ¨ Allusion, Image, and Associative Pattern: The Answers in Mansfield s Bliss ¨ The Hidden Love Triangle in Mansfield s Work ¨ Visionary Flowers: Another Study of Katherine Mansfield s Bliss ¨ Traces of Her Self in Katherine Mansfield s The Bliss 10. Bliss: Compare and Contrast 11. Bliss: Topics for Further Study 12. Bliss: What Do I Read Next? 13. Bliss: Bibliography and Further Reading Bliss: Introduction By the time of her death, Katherine Mansfield had established herself as an impo rtant and influential contemporary short story writer. Her appeal can be traced to her focus on psycho logical conflicts, her oblique narration, and her complex characters that seem to be on the brink of a major ep iphany. One of her finest short stories, Bliss, serves as prime examples of these defining q ualities. The protagonist of the story, Bertha, experiences a sense of rapture as she reflects on her life, which later turns to disappointment and resignation as she discovers that her husband is having a lov e affair with her friend. Mansfield s Bliss, and Other Stories, published in 1920, secured the author s litera ry reputation. While readers and critics at the time generally lauded the short fiction collection, a few reviewers objected to its Bliss 1

controversial subject matter infidelities, discussions of sexuality, cruel and sup erficial characters. Today Bliss is one of Mansfield s most frequently anthologized stories and still resonates w ith modern readers. Bliss: Katherine Mansfield Biography Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp was born to a wealthy family in Wellington, New Ze aland, on October 14, 1888. She was educated in London and decided early on that she wanted to be a wr iter. She studied music, wrote for the school newspaper, and read the works of Oscar Wilde and other Engl ish writers of the early twentieth century. After three years in London she returned to New Zealand, where her parents expec ted her to find a suitable husband and lead the life of a wellbred woman. However, Mansfield was rebellious , adventurous, and more enamored of the artistic community than of polite society. She began publishing stories in Australian magazines in 1907, and shortly therea fter returned to London. A brief affair left her pregnant and she consented to marry a man, George Bowden, whom she had known a mere three weeks and who was not the father of her child. She dressed in black for th e wedding and left him right after the ceremony. Upon receiving word of the scandal and spurred on by rumors that her daughter d also been involved with several women, Mansfield s mother immediately sailed to London and placed her hter in a spa in Germany. During her time in Germany, Mansfield suffered a miscarriage and was sinherited. After returning to London, Mansfield continued to write and was involved in various ve affairs. ha daug di lo

In 1911, Mansfield published her first volume of stories, In a German Pension, m ost of which had been written during her stay at the German spa. That same year she fell in love with John Middleton Murry, the editor of a literary magazine. Although they lived together on and off for many years, her other affairs continued. Together Mansfield and Murry published a small journal, the Blue Review, which f olded after only three issues. However, the experience led to friendships with members of the literary community of the day, including D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. In 1918, Mansfield was granted a di vorce from Bowden, and she and Murry married. Stricken with tuberculosis in 1917, Mansfield became very ill. She continued to write, publishing her collections Bliss, and Other Stories and The Garden Party, and Other Stories in 1920 and 1922 respectively.

The title story of the former collection, Bliss garnered much critical success, both in England and the United States. Its success established Mansfield as a major talent. Her short fiction received favorable critical attention, and she continued to wr ite even after her health forced her to move to Fontainebleau in France. Though she was separated from Murry for long periods towards the end of her life, it was he who saw that her literary reputation was established by publishing her last stories and her collections of letters after she died of a massive pulmonary hemorrhage in J anuary, 1923, at the age of thirty-four. Bliss: Summary Bliss opens with Bertha Young reflecting on how wonderful her life is. As she walks home, she is overwhelmed by a feeling of bliss; she feels tremendously content with her home, her husband, her baby, and Bliss: Introduction

the group talks about a variety of topics. still cool and collected. As Bertha waits for her guests. h e has expressed some misgivings over the women s burgeoning friendship and Bertha hopes they will event ually become friends too. Bertha runs to the window to look at the pear tree. Eddie Warren. Bertha go es to retrieve the book from a nearby table. Eddie asks Bertha if she has a certain book of poems. She goes upstairs to dress.her friends. which she sees as representing herself. As she looks out into the hallway. Bertha wishes that her husband. she looks out on her garden. Bertha pulls apart the curtains to display the garden and the pear tree. and soon thereafter her guests and husband arrive for dinner. The group moves into the dining room. After dinner. where they eat with relish and discuss the contemporary theater and literary scene. Pearl gives her the sign by asking if Bertha has a garden. Over coffee. Pearl and Eddie are set to share a taxi. would like Pearl. Harry. She cries Oh. Pearl reenters the room to thank Bertha for t he party. She is suddenly overcome by a feeling of sexual desire for her husband. a playwright. an artistic couple. she sees her husband and Pear l embrace and make arrangements to meet the next day. she begins to prepare for a dinner party she is having that evening. is ruined by two cats creeping across the lawn. what is going to happen now? but outside the pear tree is jus t the same as ever. As Pearl goes to the hall to get her coat. says he will shut up the house. The two guests leave and Harry. and Mrs. and she is simply waiting for a sign from the other woman to show her recognitio n of the empathy between them. Bertha perceives Harry s d islike for Pearl and wants to tell him how much she has shared with her friend. She also senses that Pe arl shares her feelings of bliss. Her enjoyment of a pear tree with wide open blossoms. Bertha meditates on how happy she is and how perfect her life is. but she is not sure if it really happened. Bertha s newest friend. After the Knights leave. Sh e reflects on the guests that will be arriving soon: Mr. At home. Harry accompanies her. This is the first time she has felt this way. Bertha imagines that Pearl responds positively to the tree. and she is eager for the guests to leave so she can be alone with Harry. Knight. and Pearl Fulton. as Bertha is about to make the coffee. Bertha thinks about the pear tree again. Bliss: Characters Pearl Fulton .

Though she is awful ly keen on interior decoration. Harry. on the night of the dinner party Bertha senses a n intimate attachment between them. she appears distant and mysterious.Pearl Fulton is Bertha s enigmatic new friend in the story. Knight Mrs. Mrs. Knight and her husband are guests at Bertha s dinner party. Although Bertha acknowledges tha t she and Pearl have not had a really intimate conversation. Norman Knight Norman Knight is about to open a theater that will show thoroughly modern plays. Mrs. Bliss: Summary . With her indirect way of looking at people and her half-smile. Knight dresses herself in wild clothing and resembles a giant ban ana peel. This feeling of attachment is confirmed when Bertha discovers that Pearl i s having an affair with her husband.

as she and her husband are financially comfortable. As th e story opens. which seems to represent both herself and Pearl Fulton. he is secretly engaged in a love affair with her. Bertha Young Bertha. during the dinner party. readers learn few concrete details about her. he pretends to dislike Pearl. this world in which Bertha finds such pleasure is shattered when she discovers that h er husband is having an affair with Pearl. her marriage lacks passion. and has a zest for life. Bliss: Themes Marriage and Adultery The themes of marriage and adultery are central to Bliss. Bertha s most notable characteristic is her inexplicable state of happiness. Although she characterizes her husband as a good pal. his most notable characteristic is his duplicitous nature: while he declares to Bertha that he finds Pearl Fulton dull. He provides a good income for his family.Mug See Norman Knight Eddie Warren Eddie Warren is an effeminate playwright. In fa ct. enjoys good f ood. The climactic event of the story Bertha s realization of Harry s affair with Pearl prove . complete marriage. He is described as always being in a sta te of acute distress and over the course of the evening complains about his taxi ride to the party. her home life would seem not as ideal as she views it. However. though she claims she and her husband are pals. Despite the fact that the story is told from her perspective. she still contends they are as much in love as they ever were. Bertha believes (or makes herself believe) she has a fulfilling. a young housewife. However. is the main character in the story. she is pleased with all life offers her. She appears to enjoy a fairly leisurely life. Harry Young Harry is Bertha s husband. By the end of the story. Yet he risks exposure of the affair when he embraces Pearl in the hallway while his wife is in the next room. During her dinner party. She even sexually desires her husba nd for the first time in her life and looks forward to spending the rest of the evening alone with him. her smart and cosmopolitan friends. however. a nd the nanny clearly keeps her at a distance from her young daughter. she seems to find joy in almo st everything she sees: the lovely pear tree in the garden. the bond she is forging with Pearl.

indicate the likelihood that he and Pearl share a very strong connection. As Harry s affair demonstrates. Change and Transformation Change and transformation are subtle themes in the story. show that she is undergoing a profound chang e in her life. he is not hap py with the lack of passion in their marriage. Harry s actions reveal his duplicitous nature: not only has Harry been hiding the affair from his wife. she wants nothing more than for the guests to leave so she can be alone with Harry.s that her husband does not share his wife s contentment. Bliss: Characters . She wonders if the feeling of bliss that she had all day was actually leading up to her increas ed attraction to her husband. along with her new feelings of desire for her husband. The risk that Harry takes in kissing Pearl in his own home. At the end of the story. he also pretends to dislike Pearl in order to cover it up. Bertha s extreme sense o f bliss. as well as his method of hiding his true feelings .

This is a clear sign that the change B ertha has undergone will be brought to an abrupt halt. In Bliss. Bertha seems to spend little time with her daughter. for the pear tree which is seen to represent Bertha rema ins exactly the same. nor ca n she move forward to a new relationship with Harry. in Bertha s mind. seem merely exc ive and absurd.Bertha s transformation into a sexual being is abruptly halted when she sees her h usband kissing Pearl Fulton. Bertha s view of modernity would seem to be a liking for things that are shallow. Bliss: Style Point of View and Narration The story is told from a third person. and her overexcited w ay of viewing the world forms the story s narrative technique. for instance as being th oroughly modern. and duplicitous. Even Bertha and Harry s philosophy of raising childre n is perceived as modern. Thus. That the narration is studded with qu estions. and the satire reaches a high point in Eddie Warren s lauding of a poem that begins. limited point of view. Knight is described as a cross between a giant monkey and a banana peel. However. Bertha constantly characterizes the elements of her life her relationship with her husband and her friends. Harry claims to have no interest in his daughter. moreover. Why Must it Always be Tomato Soup? The guests and their interests. She realizes that she can no longer look at her world as perfect. a modern marriage needn t be based on love or attraction but simply on the bonds that would make two people friends. rather than seeming modern and thrilling. and exclamations only emphasizes Bertha s perspective. Modernity The concept of modernity is an important aspect of the story. Her modern ideas for decorating including french fries embroidered on the curtains and chairbacks shaped like frying pans s eem distasteful and ugly. She has rationalized her poor sexual relationship with her husband as being modern because they are such good pals. superficial. instead entrusting her to a jealous nanny. Plays and poems mentioned by the guests seem dismal and pseudointellectual. Bertha s friends are also considered thoroughly modern but they appear utterly ridic ulous. This means that re aders are privy to only Bertha s perspective. Her view of the modern marriage hurts her relationship with Harry as he experien ces dissatisfaction at the state of their relationship. When she runs to the window to look at the pear tree sh e finds that it is as lovely as ever and as full of flower and as still. all events are filtered through Bertha. interjections. Mrs. .

as found in Bliss. who appears to be a writer. relies upon the ridiculous behavior of characters to make its point. wearing a dress reminiscent of banana peels. yet they are presented as ridiculous figures. When she draws up a list of all the things she has money. wit. The facts presented by the narrative reinforce this idea. or ridicule to criticize human nature and socie tal institutions. Bertha s pends very little time with her child. The most notable characteristic of Eddie Warren. though she cannot acknowl edge it. Her lack of meaningful activity also demonstrates the hollowness of her l ife. Knight resembles some kind of monkey. she is not truly as content with her life as she claims to be. is his white socks and his affected way of speaking. s. Clearly. modern friends she ends with the path etic inclusion of a wonderful little dressmaker and their new cook [who] made the superb omelettes. Satire Berth Satire is the use of humor.Bertha s emphatic and constant reassurances of how happy she is also serves to emp hasize the fact that she may be hiding something from herself. For instance. narration demonstrates the incompleteness of her life. Bliss: Themes . Bertha describes her friends as modern and thrilling people. Indirect satire. a nice house.

First and foremost. instead. not Bertha. as in the group itself. is clarifie d as reaching toward Pearl. Thus Harry s sexual desire. artists expressed their shoc k at the horrors of war and their disillusionment with modern society. how they seemed to set one another off. wants to design the room of a client s home around a fishand.fied with Pearl. to grow talle r and taller under the gaze of the women. the pear tree also takes on a masculine identity in its phallic descrip tion: it seemed. Pear l. In Bertha s mind. it represents Bertha b ecause she believes that its wide open blossoms [are] as symbol of her own life. she is intent on pursuing the belief that her life is full and rich. the pear tree seems to be reaching toward the moon. an interior decorator. open to wondrous possibiliti es. to quiver in the bright air. Bertha s friends seem to have no idea of true arti stry. the pear tree can be seen as representing Harry. However. The poems and pieces of literature enj oyed by Eddie Warren border on the grotesque. dressed in silver. like the flame of a candle. James Joyce s novel Ulysses (1922) experimented with a stream-of-consciousness narrative.chip motif.Although these people aspire to be sophisticated and artistic. which Bertha now wants for herself. She thinks what a decorative group they made. Knight. they wrap themselves up in what they believe to be fashionable talk about artistic ideas. their conversatio n reveals how little regard they truly have for an aesthetic sense of beauty. ethereal glow. emits a shimmery. In this manifestation. to point. Symbolism The most important and complicated symbol in Bliss is the pear tree: it represents d ifferent people at different times throughout the story. which previousl y had been identi. Truly. Like the pear tree. Art that emerged in the post-war period sho wed a marked departure from past forms as artists rejected traditional ways of expressing their ideas. Bliss: Historical Context Post-World War I Art In the aftermath of the devastation of World War I. For instance. When Bertha first notices the tree. Later on in the story the pear represents Pearl Fulton. to stretch up. the image of oneself as an artistic person is more important than actually being one . In addition. Poet . w ho further unites the two women. It is also clear that the group is more about talk and less about creating art. Thus both Pearl and Bertha who are actually rivals are conn ected to each other by association with the pear tree. Mrs.

art critic Roger Fry. artistic. Eliot s poetry. Leonard Woolf established the Hogarth Press. one of London s foremost intellectual and artistic circl es. At the center of this activity was the Bloomsbury group. The Bloomsbury Group In the 1910s. social. S. painter Vanessa Bell. M. In his plays. Playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht saw the theater more as a classroom than as a place of performance. Members of this group rejected conventional ideas on religious. characters would step out of their roles and directly address the audience. and sexual matters. T. among other pieces. Th e Bloomsbury group also set up the Omega Workshop. and Mansfield s short stories. novelist and essayist E. and economist John Maynard Keynes. Attendees at the regular Thursday night meetings included such British literary luminaries as George Bernard Shaw and William Yeats.s often abandoned traditional rhyme and meter. and 1920s. which went on to publish S igmund Freud s works in English. In 1917. Forster . London was a hubbub of literary and artistic activity. Bloomsbury members included writer Virginia Woolf. which lasted from 1913 to 1919. At the workshop. pain ters applied their ideas of Bliss: Style .

Britain headed into a cycle of economic depressions. the situation did not significantly improve throughout the decade. Some women publicly decried this inequality. such as judges. and private offices. The Modern British Woman World War I had forced many women to join the ranks of male workers. A government committee was appointed to find remedies for this depressed economic situation. where it remained for most of the deca de. The British Economy In 1920. Unemployment quickly reached 1. They worked in many capa cities. in what today would be called modern design. As a result. some of the remedies the committee recommended were ignored in light of pressure from other economic interests.abstraction and decorated ordinary objects. Modern British Society British society underwent significant changes in the 1910s and 1920s. Soon the first British fem ale sat in the House of Commons. Laws passed in 1919 a nd 1923 also gave women rights equal to those of men in cases of divorce. Through their artistic work and ideas. Women were not promoted to positions of power. most married women remained dependent on their husbands. was passed. and working women were paid less than men for equal labor. when the Representation of the People Act. At the outs et of the war. which were to last until World War II. women did not have equal voting rights as men until 1928. the British government actively set out to recruit women as men went to war. the members of the Bloomsbury gro up were influential practitioners of twentieth-century modernism. De spite these advances. unfortunately. Beatrice Hastings wrote feminist ar ticles published in the New Age in which she frankly discussed such topics as the sexual subjection of women to their husbands or the refusal of British universities to grant degrees to women. from clerical jobs to manufacturing. Such increased employment and economic opportunities were important factors in w omen s emancipation. Millions of Bri tish women entered government departments. or managers. young British women used fashion to reflect their chang ing status in society: shorter skirts and bobbed hair became the rage amongst young women in both countries. By 1918 the Franchise Act gave all women over the age of twenty-eight the right to vote (all men over the age of twenty-one were given this right by the same law). factories.5 million. known as the flapper act. corp orate CEOs. such as screens and chairs. As in the United States. By 1914 th e discrepancies between the . However.

Fewer people had servants . The workwe ek was reduced in 1918 from 56 hours to 48 hours. Several reviewers drew a parallel between Mansfield s work and that of the Russian writer Bliss: Historical Context . it became the title story for Mansfield s second collection. and Other Stories.lifestyles of the rich and poor were far less evident. Working-class people also saw improvements as new for ms of recreation particularly dance halls and talking films enhanced their leisure hours. Many early reviewers lauded the collection and Mansfield s unique narrative voice. The story (and the volume) helped solidify Mansfield s reputation as an important contemporary writer. Bliss. poorer people had access to the same goods as the wealthy. Bliss: Critical Overview The story Bliss was first published in The English Review in 1920. called Mansfield brilliant and remarked upon her infinitely inquis itive sensibility. in a review for Freeman. Later that year. Conrad Aiken. More people owned homes that had the comforts of electricity and modern plumbing. and middle-class society came to hold greater pol itical power.

is making all the while her own world. [and] seemingly wanton destruction of faith. com mentators hold differing . He deemed the colle ction to be a voyage of adventure filled with Mansfield s own experiments and successful experiments. that both st ories would likely shock some people by their outspokenness on some subjects usually left alone. we cannot imagine anyone objecting to Miss Mansfield s book. For instance. they have not. put forth the story as an example of the modern mood. however. . beauty so deeply known and s o discerningly expressed that that special condition of springtime exaltation seems here finally and full y held. recent criticism of the story has explored Bertha s sexual desire (b oth for Harry and Pearl Fulton). that eleme nt of trivial discomfort so dominant in modern fiction. they are anything but that. S.Anton Chekhov. in his After Strange Gods. In addition to Bertha s sexuality. The review ended with this positive judgment: Miss Mansfield. . but one has not read two pages before Chekhov is forgotten. . While early reviewers and critics tended to focus on literary and stylistic aspe cts of the story as well as how it reflected contemporary society as the years have passed. This reviewer also acknowledged. but surely the only real test for book ethics is whether they will . Many reviewers paid particular attention to Bliss. readers left believing . A reviewer for the Spectator countered these accusations early on: That is not to say that they [ Bliss and Je ne parle pas f cais ] are cheerful stories. Yet some critics focused on the story s cruel or disagreeable aspects. . vision. The anonymous reviewer for the Ti mes Literary Supplement maintained. Aiken noted this similarity but also countered any claims that Ma nsfield borrowed from Chekhov: One has not read a page of Miss Mansfield s book before one has said ekhov . In other words. be likely t o do good or harm. however. Ch Malcolm Cowley also commented on the resemblance to Chekhov. Judged by this standard. Succeeding generations of critics and readers also singled out Bliss as one of Mansf ield s finer stories. in human virtue and integrity. . in stories such as Bliss. A reviewer for The Athenaeum contended that despite the shock and disillusionment. Eliot. . or happiness. which earlier critics disregarded. it is all beauty till the end. The re viewer continued. critics have broadened th eir scope of inquiry. In 1934. she is an artist in fiction. with the air of dispassionately repor ting. the poet T. .

Read Mansfield s story Bliss and it s immedi ly apparent how deeply connected she was to this cultured world both critical of it a nd quite willingly a part of it. The upshot of Bliss is that these social animals eat away at your soul. . and letters were reprinted in the 19 80s.views of many key facets of the story. in the Village Voice Literary Suppleme nt. the deft psychological portrait of Bertha. It is also interesting to note the way specific criticism has changed since the publication of Bliss. Katherine Dieckmann. however. why Bertha experiences feelings of bliss. commentators laud the effective and unusual use of symbolism an d imagery on multiple levels. . and Mansfield s evocation of mood in th e story. Recent critics. responded to Murry s assertion that Mansfield s stories were read and loved by innumerable simple people. such as their analysis of Bertha s personal ity. find Harry to b e crass. Most contemporary critics. and crude. Bliss: Critical Overview . . reviewers again discussed the story. contend there is much more to the story than simply Man sfield s effective use of satire. journals. When a number of Mansfield s books. aggressive. and what these feelings actually mean to her. however. She contended: Bosh. a nd not the academics or critics. In fact. The review in Athaeneum referred to one of Mansfield s finest pieces of characterization o f ordinary people such as the vigorous Harry.

tenaciously clings to the belief that she has all that is good in the world: a fine. it becomes clear that Bertha s declarations of hap piness serve as a mere cover-up for all that her life lacks. the story operates on a more emotional level. Katherine Mansfield wrote in a letter to a friend: O this Spring It makes me long for happiness. The story demonstrates Mansfield s skill as writ er while evoking a milieu of social superficiality and stagnation. and Mansfield s use of symbolism. This feeling reaches its culmination when she finds out that her husband Harry is having an affair with her friend. In contrast. F. modern. J. Yet as day merges into evening. Mansfield had channeled her own feelings of exultation into Bliss tory that helped solidify her literary reputation. Bertha. Kobler. Bertha definitely feels what is happening to her. much as. That is so vague. maintains that her feelings d erive from a natural source. The richness of Bliss allows for much discussion. Really. I long to tell someone to feel it immediately shared felt without my asking do you feel it? Do you know what I mean? Within the year. he writes. and satire. and the material comforts that money can buy. Each year I think th is year I shall not feel it so keenly but I feel it more. sexual desire. on some of these days one is tired with bliss. one to which countless readers have responded positively without precisely knowing why. but she cannot discover [its] source. a s Bliss relates a fateful day in the life of Bertha Young. A Study of the Short Fiction. At the same time. imagery. Pearl Fulton the very friend she had be lieved was the only person to share her overflowing emotions. critics have focused on different aspects of the story those they deem most essential to its understanding such as character analysis . a thirty-year-old h ousewife. did Mansfield s own feelings as described in the letter of 1919. thrilling friends . Saralyn R. .Bliss: Essays and Criticism Feelings of Bliss In 1919. Critics remain divided over the genesis of these feelings that grip Bertha so st rongly. author of Katherine Mansfield. an adorable baby . dependa ble husband. Just as critics do not always a gree on what is the most important facet of Bliss what makes the story work and indeed survive the decades nei they always agree in their analysis of what remains at the core of the story: Be rtha s feelings of bliss. Why are human beings the only ones who do not put forth fresh buds exquisite flowers and leaves? . it would seem. Daly has asserted in Katherine Mansfield that Bertha s ove . .

Thou gh she speaks glowingly of moments when she wants to laugh at nothing. Instead. The opening paragraphs demonstrate her inability to perceive her life through her own eyes. laughing at how beautiful she finds the fruit she has arranged. however. at nothing. In addition to the hints inherent in Bertha s words. Bertha. Her feelings of bliss are thus artificially manufactured as a means to hold on to he r facade of happiness.rwhelming protestations of happiness stem from her denied awareness of Harry s affair. the story s narrative style ind icates all that she is trying to keep from herself. attribute Bertha s neurotic behavior to her growing dissati sfaction with her life. She Bliss: Essays and Criticism ab . Indeed. simply and of the feeling of olute bliss! that comes over her as she walks home. Most critics. even dec lares. she speaks as if she is in the process of observing herself. I m getting hysterical. it is subtly revealed that her words are not her own.

Bertha s claims of a good life ring hollow. Little B. convince herself. quoted by her. Bertha s immaturity (as well as that of her friends) prevents her from achieving a ny meaningful connections with those who surround her. rare fiddle but in another woman s arms? a s repetition of the phrase shows her experimentation with finding a way to express her feelings. . She cannot even find solace in her dau ghter though the moment in the nursery seems to be when Bertha really lets down her defenses. They were. that about the fiddle is not quite what I mean. . Thus. Part of Bertha s problems stem from her inherent immaturity. As Bertha continues to congratulate herself on her privileged life. as it were. The list that she manufactures moves swiftly from family and home to praises her dressmaker and her cook. but then she qualifies ent with the revelation that they were really good pals. Harry and she were as much in love as ever. the baby is snatched back by th e nanny in triumph when Bertha takes a phone call.questions. rare fiddle? but then immediately edits her own thoughts: No. Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rar e. later. She is not able to adequately mother her child desp . borrowed with . Bertha reveals her engagement in an act of self-deception and self-creation. . . yet she d none of her own. not being an artist. while visiting her daughter in the nursery. Mansfield wrote of the former scene to her husband John Middleton Murry. Bertha returns to this turn o f phrase: Why have a baby if it has to be kept not in a case like a rare. Their lack of social conscious is revealed through Eddie Warren s description of A dreadful poem about a girl who was violated by a beggar wit hout a nose in a little wood. Really really she had everything. . . Later. . early in the narrative. Young. Indeed. serves more as a reflection of her mo ther than her own person. an eye brow . as underscored by her last name. wor as if trying to for this statem that she ha Berth Her friends are keen on social issues but as their conversation at the dinner party shows. her very ds indicate the rationalization taking place in her mind. . was yet artist manqué enough to realise that these words and expressions were not and couldn t be hers. she thinks. but she is only able to rework an expression she was not happy with in the first place. was Bertha. Bertha s lack of a close relationship with h er daughter is not surprising given that the child. What I me ant. her friends are more concerned with inflating their own egos. She readil y acknowledges that she did not dare to question the nanny s authority. Bertha later reveals s never felt any sexual passion for her husband.

Bertha s affection for Pearl seems to stem fro m her search for something or someone meaningful and different which. while her Feelings of Bliss . only Pearl Fulton seems to possess a modicum of maturity (and it is significant that she is not really a member of Bertha s crowd but rather Bertha s latest find ). as she always did fall i n love with beautiful women who had something strange about them. as the story demonstrates. Of Bertha s circle. The narrative states that Bertha had fallen in love with her. It is not surprising that before discovering Pearl s and Harry s affair. still has that potential. compared to those she surroun ds herself with. Though she and Bertha had met a number of times and really talked her true essence eludes Bertha.ite the fact that while feeding Little B all of her feelings of bliss came back again. implies a person of some substance. who cannot break past Pearl s wall of reserve. Bertha reac hes out to Pearl. Of course. as evidenced by her inabi lity to keep him on the telephone when she only wanted to get in touch with him for a moment. Pearl s maturity can be crudely construed as a sexual one and her rese rve could come from the knowledge that she is betraying Bertha. Yet Bertha finds it difficult to truly connect with her new friend. Pearl Fulton. as the newest comer. She does not experience sexua l satisfaction with her husband nor is she able to truly communicate with him.

a thorough understandin g of it on a textual level is difficult to achieve. crumbling bread. is the only person who seems to relate to Bertha s emotion. Pearl. foremost that of feeling passion for her husband. Instead of fulfilling her desires. Because Bliss is so full of multiple meanings and symbolism. and green shoes and stockings).friends and family have failed to inspire Bertha to experience true feelings of bliss. While the other guests are dabbing their lips with napkins. Clearly. Harry s coarseness is revealed in his talk about food and glory in his shameless pass ions for the white flesh of the lobster . remains unchanged. when Pearl asks Bertha whether s he has a garden. And did Miss Fulton murmur : Yes. . he finds the poem so deeply true . . As Kobler maintains: A first-time reader of a Mansfield story may have similar feelings of b liss while experiencing the story and may well not understand their source. The pear tree. Or did Bertha dream it? For Bertha. Unfortunately. as lovely as ever. which symbolizes Bertha (note that the pear tree is b athed in the white of the moon and rises against a jadegreen sky. as the two women are regarding the pear tree. this feeling of shared communication opens her ow n life up to numerous possibilities. Why does this story on this reading create such pleasure for this particular reader? Kobler s question may prove impossible to answer. fiddl ing with forks and glasses and talking. such people are no match for Bertha. Bertha is simply reading into Pearl s actions. Bertha remains silent. Just that. Bertha discovers Harry and Pearl in a silent embrace. however. based on a feeling of shared emotion which her life so sorely lacks she resigns her self to a profound loneliness. jade bea ds. and Bertha dresses in a white dress. This is subtly ackno wledged when. who finds artistic pleasure in som ething as simple as the arrangement of fruit. the narration reads. on the other hand. unchanged. Yet the story also succeeds on a more und efinable level. Thus does Bertha s burgeoning transformation come to an end. Bertha takes this as a sign. After dinner. his inclinations show his predatory and aggressive nature. . While she had hopes of evoking a change in her life. Tomato soup is so dreadfully eternal. as Bertha s life seems destined to g o forward. but countless readers over the g enerations would agree with his assessment. Ed die Warren s inherent foolishness and pretentiousness is revealed when he talks about a poem that begi ns with an incredibly beautiful line: Why Must it Always be Tomato Soup? .

a nd often misleads. to devastating effect. Gale. The devious second story construction leads.Source: Rena Korb. the reader. Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss When the heroine of Mansfield s well-known. extraordinary short story discovers he r husband s infi.delity less than a page before the end. placing her in the position of the unknowing heroine. Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss . for Short Stories for Students. Korb has a master s degree in English literature and creative writing and has written for a wide variety of educationa l publishers. who interprets clues and applies general cultural competence to retell the once-subm erged second story. a second story untold in the first but necessar y to its meaning erupts into the narrative. the story subverts the reading subject. 2000. Appealing to the reader s cooperation in its complex processes.

I wish to be attentive not just to what Susan Stanford F riedman calls the horizontal axis. but especially the ve rtical space-time. was feeling just what she was feeling . there is always a sacrifice. as many have. Furthermore. Let us recognize. they are in the position of the analysand.The truth is. although the story has an undoubted lesbian meaning that compels us to read out homosexual desire. both naive an d devious. Some readers soft-pedal the homosexualities of Mansfield s relations. in particular the interp lay of the semiotic and the symbolic. that Bertha Young and her text are lacking knowledge. however. As the analyst. I favor neither extreme. Katherine Mansfield wrote in her journal. At dinner. I am interested in showing how the tex t reveals its own strategies for manipulating the reader. Miss Pearl Ful ton. I prefer not to c laim to discover a particular referential knowledge behind the text (taken to be the language spoken by the analys and). Bertha ponders what could make her so certain of this knowledge: What she simply couldn t make out what was miraculous was how she sho . stirring the beautiful red soup in the grey plate. the movement of characters within their fictional world. Why? I haven t any idea. In question is not so much wh at hidden knowledge we may reveal about Bertha as what we may know about how the story moves us. still we may not agree on what she knew. it is rich enough to enjoy wider interpretatio ns. she thinks she has seen the enigma behind Miss F ulton s smile: But Bertha knew. It s always a kind of race to get in as much as one can before it disappear s. one can get only so much into a story. lies mysteriously hidden. most intimate look had passed between them as if they had said to each other: You. but rather to be knowledgeable about the functioning of language. insinuates an interpretive strategy: it challenges the reader to find the disappeared text. suddenly. this double-edged observation. or eliminate them altogether. too? that Pearl Fulton. referring to the writer and reader in relation to each other. whose effects work only once. The reader w ill find out. throws up a fortification protecting wha t Mansfield knew. Suggesting Hemingway s principle of the iceberg. In other words. Bliss is a good example of how the represented events of the story m irror the way language drives the narrative. One has to leave out what one knows and longs to use. as if the longest. while others make them a necessary ingredient in any interpreta tion of her fictions. that she is not wrong. while it convinces us to apprehend a cha racter as if she were a real person. with Bertha. but that this should not be cause for joy. and this is what guides our interpretive strategy. but there it is. The dazzling feeling of bliss that Bertha Young shares with her find. This wording borrowed from S hoshana Felman aptly describes the stance I take in reading Bliss. Miss Fulton too has swallowed a bit of the sun. If we assume that the sacrificed material of the second story in Bliss contained what Mansfield knew and longed to us e. The second-story construction.

Setting this perfect understanding agains backdrop of grotesques taints the shared feeling with both comic and tragic irony. Together. She picked up the little book and gave it to him. as a good hostess . Bertha can hardly wait for her idiotic guests to leave so she can tell her husband in bed about her wonderful feeling. repenting his coldness. the second story bursts upon her like a tornado: Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss . This elaborate stag ing. For she never doubted for a moment that she was right. however. a nd the reader has little choice but to interpret his rude behavior as Bertha does. Bertha is following her to help. In the last page and a half t he narrative takes pains to describe the characters movements: Pearl Fulton goes toward the hall to get her c oat. insisting implausibly on the silence of both characters. As Bertha looks up to see Harry helping Miss Fulton with he r coat. if not exactly what. they look at th e beautiful pear tree in the garden. Why Mu st it Always be Tomato Soup? and to fetch the anthology containing it from a table near the hall d oor And she moved noiselessly to a table opposite the drawing-room door and Eddie glided noiseless ly after her. understanding each other perfectly. is desire: For the first time in her life Bertha Young desired her husband. Husband Harry. instead of the euphemis tic bliss. And it is then that she realizes with a shock that the name she must give to her feeling. they had not made a sound. but her husband brushes past.uld have guessed Miss Fulton s mood so exactly and so instantly. and yet what had she to go on? Less than nothing. she must then remain in the drawing room to listen to Eddie Warren s italicized praise of Bilks s new poem. announces to the reader at the very least tha t something is going to happen. professes to dislike striking blonds like Miss Fulton.

Her understanding of Miss Fulton is far from perfect. we realize that Bertha. He tossed the coat away. put his hands on her s houlders and turned her violently to him. our reading is necessarily naive. As Mansfield wr ote. . particularly in its treatment of the sublime bliss. and Miss Fulton laid her moonbeam fingers on his cheeks and smiled her sleepy smile. and with her eyelid s Miss Fulton said Yes. . Just that. for later in the moonlight the tree turns silver. When Miss Fulton asks to see the garden. Harry s nostrils quive red. At the same moment. has been a particularly bad guide for us (leading us d own the garden path?). She dresses for dinner in a flowing white dress with a jade necklace. who does not know the second story until it su rfaces. As Miss Fulton and Bertha together gaze at the slender tree. that the bloom is not her own. like . and green shoes and stockings. the eruption of the second sto ry into the first. and her reading of her husband s beh avior is always wrong. His lips said I adore you. thus uncannily presaging the white -blossomed pear tree against the jade-green sky at dusk. and it seems likely that To-morrow follows a To-day. it becomes devious when the second story bursts into the first.Harry with Miss Fulton s coat in his arms and Miss Fulton with her back turned to him and her head bent. Bertha fancies she says Yes. the second story sweeps away mistaken interpretations and irreparably changes the first. which casts into sha dows the gradual unfolding in growing. silver as Miss Fulton in her elegant dress. Preeminent among symbols indexing the mysterious and enchanting feeling is the pear tree in perfe ct full bloom at the end of the garden. for he is a proficient reader of her eyelids. [w]ithout [the sense of crisis] how are we to appreciate the importance of one spiritual event rather t han another? What is to prevent each being unrelated complete in itself if the gradual unfolding in growing . With Bertha. gaining light. it indexes their perfect understanding: Although it was so s till it seemed. and when she sees the pear tree. Our second reading fin ds them. The exclusive focus on Bertha and the scintillating expressiveness of her discov ery of desire also take our attention away from any clues to the threatening tornado. his lips curled back in a hideous grin while he whispered: Tomorrow. Yet this index also serves as an early clue to the r eader. Bertha takes this request as an enigmatic sign. gaining light is not to be followed by one blazing moment? The blazing moment. if not to Bertha. We feel certain t hat Harry Young and Pearl Fulton have already become lovers.And she saw. we embrace the entire second story in an instant. The first story is highly indexical (rather than functional). which Bertha takes as an icon of her own life. Until these moments. links the spiritual events of Bertha s bliss in a sudden new light. through whose es the entire story is told. For the first-time reader.

Yet if it passes unnoticed in the first story. is also fo und in the garden when Bertha first looks out.the flame of a candle. she runs to the window and cries. With Miss Fulton s farewell wor ds echoing in Bertha s mind ( Your lovely pear tree pear tree pear tree! ). Bertha now that the tornado has burst upon her. and a black one. so intent and so quick. A second index. with her mo onbeam fingers. no doubt suggestively phallic. Bliss remains not Bertha s b ut Miss Fulton s. before the guests arrive: A grey cat. and she turned away from the window. blond Miss Fulton. and the only answer. has become the creepy gray cat that slithered snake-like below the beauty of the miraculous tree. Symbolic of the fullness of desire. to grow taller and taller as they gazed almost to touch the rim of the round. the fantastical tree finally stands as an index not of Ber tha s bliss but of Miss Fulton s. is again indexical and not functional: But the pear tree was as lovely as ever and as full of flower and as still. in the final onesentence paragraph. to point. silver moon. Eddie follows her like the black cat following the grey cat. trailed after. its shadow. hat is going to happen now? The story thus closes on a question that calls explicitly for a further narrative. The cat is the vulgar counterpart to the sublime pear tree. When Miss F ulton leaves after murmuring Your lovely pear tree!. gave Bertha a curious shiver. What creepy things cats are! she stammered. which the reader probably ignores on a first reading. it reappears after the second story has erupted. the defect that dooms the perfect symbol. dragging its belly. Not Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss Oh . Against a pervasive array of vibrant and compelling colors. crept a cross the lawn. to stretch up. black and gray are merely t wo intensities of non-color. to quiver in the bright air. in this narrative. The sight of them. which remains undisturbed at the end of the story. the silvery.

as it were. Everything was not perfect. brutal platitude. As Judith Neaman believes. screws and rescrews a large tortoise-shell-rimmed monocl e into an eye and is called Mug. Mrs. is nicknamed Face and is g oing to decorate a room with a fried-fish scheme. A very large portion of the story is devoted to the pretentious and inane conversation among these remarkable specime ns of the superficial. poet and admirer of poems with incredibly beautiful first lines about food ( It s so deeply true. This untold story lies buried in such a wellfortified location that the reader s a ccess to its ramifications leads through many deviations. who evolves in a milieu in which writ ers named Oat write plays called Love in False Teeth. Bertha s crushes on women are nothing new in her life. is terrorized by taxi-drivers and always speaks in italics. on second reading. Effete Eddie Warren. caught in that circle of unearthly light. Yet this crush on Pearl Fulton also remains in the second-story mode.only has Miss Fulton become a sinister. an insertion point for a clue addressed to the reader: How long di d they stand there? Both. the fo llowing paragraph offers. but her desire for her husband is both new and startling to her. but she has lost her shining silver mystery and taken on a dullish gray no enigma but a t rite. understanding each other p erfectly. treacherous cat. Let us first see how the story misleads the reader by p roposing meanings that turn into red herrings. After the shared fantasy of the phallic pear tree. leaving us to supply the details: without knowing it. whose orange coat sports processions of black mon keys and who seems to be wearing a dress made of scraped banana skins. The gray cat is a distant clue to the second story. the stressed word both. don t you feel? Tomato soup is so dreadfully eternal ). putative producer of plays. assume that the developing point of the story lies in the contrast between the sublime sensation of bliss a nd the grotesque social mores the story satirizes between the sensually poetic internal feeling and the ridiculously ugly external portrayal. There are many other clues. but the most intriguing lie in the very feeling of b liss and the muted mystery of its origin in Miss Fulton. but the reader is not allowed to give it a precise interpretation until the second story has shattered the first. and wondering what they were to do in this one with all this blissful tre asure that burned in their bosoms and dropped. afte r all. Norman Knight. the plural noun creatures all tell us that Miss Fulton s case is exactly l ertha s. . creatures of another world. Bertha fo und Miss Fulton because Harry had already become her lover. the reader may. with the backs of chairs shaped like frying pans an d lovely chip potatoes embroidered all over the curtains. Norman Knight. in silver flowers. from their hair and hands? The third person plural. during a first read ing. Mr. in the garden. Given the ironic context. the devious introductio n of evil into paradise.

Although it appears that authorial irony is directed o nly toward the grotesques. The narrative induces the reader to pursue this contrast even into the relation betw een husband and wife. she has moved to a different plane. His first manifestation in the story already reveals tha t he is not on Bertha s poetic level. Everything that goes on around Bertha is external and r idiculous except Miss Fulton. possi bly. we see mainly that caricature contradicts pathos. If. then we will only describe the story as a soph isticated failure. or in another. and in the naively anticipated company of her husband. Any failure on our part would consist in not seeing how the story masks and thus rev eals its messages by forcing mistaken interpretations. In this way. and. Pearl Fulton s. and not toward Bertha.self-satisfied bourgeoisie. extravagantly cool and collected pasteboard c onfection will rise to Bertha s sublime heights. the reader formulates erroneous hypotheses on a firs t reading which must be rejected or at least significantly revised on a second reading. is the very day she Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss . Bertha feels that this self of hers has taken leave o f them forever. we doubt that this blunt. We predict an outcome that would include a rude awakenin g. and that the day when sexual desire finally flares up in her. when the Norman Knights leave. providing a comic backdrop to the seemingly sublime drama within Bertha. superficial. although Bertha s tenderness toward Harry does not readily allow us to see him as an utter grotesque. in the sole present company of Miss Fulton. So brusque is he on the phone that she cannot tell him about her new feel ing. and she concludes that civilization is idiotic. like his guests. Little prepares u s for the supremely ironic discovery that what Miss Fulton shares with Bertha is also her husband. not just the wonderful feeling of bliss. after several year s of marriage. like John Mi ddleton Murry. an abrupt fall from the heights of bliss to the new discovery of her husband s mundane reality. it is the story s intentions that are ironic.

The knowledge Bertha acquires only shows her that her vis ion was defective. that we have hear d several of our patients employ with regard to their own selves a metaphorical reference to Vaubanlike fortificat ions. leave s no doubt whatsoever that the rest of the second story has happened just as surely as we know an iceb erg lies. the solution explodes upon her unbidden and unwanted. Bertha s desire to explain the mysterious attraction of Miss Fulton. is the very thing that makes it difficult for Bertha to understand the mystery. a product of her own nascent sexual desire. too. It is then that the reader become s as devious as the second story. No detective she. the essence of the enigma. Bertha founders in a snare in the narrative. the miraculous unspoken knowledge. si comparable en ses principes à celles qu illust rent le redan et la chicane. the second readin g forces one back to read and recognize the ironic treatment of the heroine. as it were the familiar story of the unfaithful hu sband. are Lacanian t erms for the fortifi.cations characteristic of obsessive neurosis. Until that point the wall surrounding the second story construction can fairly be called a fortification. For much of the story . ] The structure of these bastions is particulièrement destinée à camoufler. What Bertha catches sight of in the hallway is the tip of the iceberg the only par t of the second story that is visible. seven-eighths under water. While erroneous hypotheses protect the reader from the second story. Bertha is forced to let the entire second story into her consciousness. and the reader with her. Thus our reading neurosis takes the form of an interpretive construction or delirium that is simply wrong. but also that there is a real secret about mundane events. both describing deviations in fortified walls. she learns not only the nature of the secret Mi ss Fulton contains. Readers competence. Chicane and redan. the elusive feeling of bliss. que nous avons entendu plusieurs de nos patients user à leur propre sujet d une référence métaphorique à des fortifications à la Vauban [ a defensive decomposition. When Bertha sees her husband embrace Miss Fulton. In L agresivité en psychanalyse Lacan describes th e obsessive neurosis as une décomposition défensive. including Bertha s. à nier. à déplacer. momentarily and by accident. and when she interprets the way Miss Fulton refuses a cigarette as an expression of her hurt ( she felt it. only leads to blockage of the enigma. what one might call a degraded version of the mysterious enigma she had perceived. when she think s her husband is simple and really dislikes Miss Fulton. à diviser et à r l intention . but to one that lies within under water. and was hurt ). In this structure there is a kind of internal intertextuality: the text refers not to an intertext outside the story. What I now want to show is that shared sexual desire.will see it destroyed. so comparable ts principles to those that illustrate the redan and the chicane. as Hemingway said.

namely that if the feeling she shares with Miss Fulton is sexual desire. and deadening of Miss Fulton s aggr essive intentions. . When Bertha interprets Harry s behavior toward Miss Fulton as rude. . or sarcastic. after whi ch the narrative continues: At those last words something strange and almost terrifying darted into Bertha s mind.agressive [ particularly aimed at camouflaging. Like another bit of the iceberg. A break in the page and he will be alone toget her in the dark room the warm bed . displacement. And this something blind and smiling whispered to her: . . . displacing. when she concludes that Harry really dislikes Miss Fulton. division. Was this what that feeling of bliss had been leading up to? But then and here the text of her thoughts is interrupted by the ped estrian needs of the grotesque Mug and Face. the n Miss Fulton too must be feeling desire. She has been mentally telling Harry: I shall try to tell you when we are in bed to-night what has been happening. At the revelation of Bertha s indescribable feeling. . disavowal. to defend her from a fact that her conscious mind has no purchase on. unconscious camouflage. unkind. the text stops just short of realizi ng the source of Miss Fulton s feeling too. . Instead. The attentive reader will come to see that the dash stan ds for and eliminates Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss . denying. the text supplies openings to its own devious structures. . the entire narrative about Bertha s shared feelings with Pearl Fulton pre sents a neurotic. Bertha is producing a neurotic interpretation that functions. to use Lacan s terms. dividing and dea dening the aggressive intention ]. unconsciously. She and her husband had been such good pals and she had not loved him that way. but now she desires him ardently! ardently! . What she and I have shared.

The bulk of the first story . the primal scene portrays the child witnessing the mother and father in sexual embrace. . the false clues or snares. The rhetoric al indices of her perfect understanding for instance. surreptitious formulations of the narrative which lead the reader astray the erroneous hypotheses about the first story. her growing. Ned Lukacher writes that primal scenes are interpretive constructions. and Bertha s sublime feeling is only an ir onic repetition. Instead. Although this dash does not represent an ellipsis du ring which the entire second story takes place (like a famous dash in Kleist s Die Marquise von O . the failure of narrative reliability hidden beh ind the walls thrown up by Bertha s apparent self-knowledge. That moment we may well call a Lacanian instant. or devious vision of our reader s guide in all. the zigzag structures in the wall designed to prevent the passage of enemy forces. when she identifies it as sexual desire. We might profitably compare this second story structure to the repetition of a p rimal scene. by the se cond reading one probably wonders if Bertha is as naive as she seems. The second story here is thus a kind of pr imal scene which the first story conveniently forgot to tell the reader (or Bertha). had th ere not been the defensive decomposition of Bertha s perfect understanding of Miss Fulton. Carrying the metaphor into the textual domain. Until this moment. from it Bertha and the reader construct the entire second story. instantly. . however. The story might have erupted at that dash. the inade quate. The love affair Harry Young is having with Pe arl Fulton could well be described as the forgotten primal scene of Bertha Young s new bliss. exactly. a degraded version of the original. a mere copy. Miss Fulton h as already had the experience that Bertha s story refers to. Thus it suffices to see the mute scene in the hall. Here the narrative is unflinchingly direct: For the first time in her life Bertha Young des ired her husband. wait for a second reading to fill in the dash with the story of Miss Fulton s bliss the internal intertext.(camouflages. then. who must.) the repressed thought: Miss Fulton desires Harry Young ardently! ardently! and loves him in that way. the event by which Bertha learn s that her desire is the desire of the other. Freud revised this bald account by claiming the scene could just as well be only a fantasy. until the fortification is breached. But it is . Bertha thinks and t he reader with her that she has reached a new knowledge of her feeling. I believe. Lacan s well-known statement that desire is the desire of the other occurs in La subversion du sujet et la dialectique du désir. the terms miraculous. circuitous. or the devious. defective. gaining light. n doubted for a moment bolster the fortification. In Freud s original formulation. thus protecting her new-found bl iss. etc. As is well known. displaces. the break in her thoughts i s only a clue to the alert reader. can be read as an example of Lacan s chicane. ).

the complexity of the relations of desire that lead to the final moment. The next narrative segment concerns an episode I have not mentioned so far. to bowl a hoop ). Throughout. Among others. but from the fact that the self does not know where desire comes from. a reading in this vein emerges from the symbolic structure s of the story. Discovering Miss Fulton s desire for Harry. like a child. to take dancing steps on and off the pavement. the girl s desire for t he father is the mother s desire. ] That is. which can after all be discerned. In psychoanalysis. while Bertha is called by her first name. and her last name. que nesc ience d où il désire [ For there is it seen that the misprision in which man remains of his desire is le ss misprision of what he is asking for. misrecognition of desire does not come from not knowing its object. because it seems to have very little to do with the events in the dining Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss . than misprision of where he desire s from. Miss Fulton is never called simply Pearl. Young . Bertha learns that her new desire for her husband is no t simple but complex. qui peut après tout se cerner. misrecognition or misprision. only underscores her youth. unknowing occurs in the family trinity. found in the structure of the fantasy: Car là se voit que la nescienc e où reste l homme de son désir est moins nescience de ce qu il demande. Unknowing is a misreco gnition of the fact that desire is the desire of the other. by exploiting the simplicity of this phrase.also deceptive in its directness. for the second story soon demonstrates that her knowledge is rather what Lacan calls nesci ence. to say that Bertha desired her husband is to m ask. which can be and is discovered. The opening segment of the story expli citly opposes maturity ( thirty and sensible ) to youth as Bertha Young arrives home ( she wanted to run inst walk.

beca use Thank you. the be tter to command understanding. For the so much one can get into a story reveals the traces of what disappears. Conn . Mary. and has a visibly but paradoxically greater authority and power. Even her desire for her daughter is breached in this way. a reflection interrupted (as many of Bertha s thoughts are) when the maid opened the door. The dash is later filled in when Bertha begs N anny to let her finish feeding her daughter: How absurd it was. as Shoshana Felman writes. she stops. it is among the things that the narrative has to sacrifice (as Katherine Mansfield wrote in her journal). In this scene too Bert ha completes a reflection she had begun as she waited on the stoop to be let in. structures that mostly censure saying but allow it to erupt in minimal form ( Tomorrow. splitting it. In the triangle relating Har ry. We d emand to know quite little of the second story. Bertha stands in the position of the child who discovers her desire for her fath er. disapproving of this unwanted interruption. in this scene. th e fortification. which never become fixed. the story is in the first story in the form of a perverse secret that ceases to be secret for the first story. rare fiddle?. The second story sub verts the first story just as the unconscious subverts the subject. and immediately thereupon discovers that she is merely repeating her mother s desire. the sighting of the tip of the iceberg) that give the story its chilling efficacy. and most of what we do know is based on our ge neral competence. Why have a baby if it has to be kept not in a case like a rare. . After arranging the many-colored fruit in the blue bowl and the glass dish. rare fiddle but in another woman s arms? a woman who. drawing room. says Harry Yo ung) to confirm what they have shown by hiding. There she had th ought: Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare. . having childishly forgotten h er key. . The narrative with its second. Bertha run s upstairs to the nursery where Nanny has just finished bathing and feeding her daughter. Here Nanny is the auth ority. Bertha. It s not what I mean.story structure f orces us to produce in our reading. an analysis of the unconscious (the repressed) not as hidden but on the contrary as exposed in language through a significant (rhetorical) displacement. Rather. and Bertha is just the poor little girl in front of the ric h little girl with the doll. and hall after the guests arrive. This rather simplified triangle stands for all possible permutations of the rela tions of desire. Bliss says that a discourse of desire is not sayable. the story subverts the discourses of the self that produce knowledge and und erstanding. and Miss Fulton. but had then corrected herself: No. that about the fiddle is not quite what I mean. In another woman s arms is prec isely where Bertha will at last see the reality of her it is the very process and structure of hiding (the forgetting of the primal scene. events that seem to consti tute the entire story. as the door is opened. With its second-story structure. stands in for a mother. it exists for the se structures of hiding.

She knew why Bertha was blissful. In these rhetorical and unavowed (c amouflaged. because of its subordination to the signifier. etc. The best way to imagine the classical plural is then to listen to the text as a shimmering excha nge of multiple Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss . The dynamic of this narrative process is an instance of what Lacan calls fading. and she lent her re ader an ample supply of obstacles. that the voice is lost. and suppressed. speak from a known voice. That is what Barthes does when he borrows Lacan s concept to explain the plurality of a text. the term is used in typically metaphoric fashion to describe the situation in psychoanaly sis in which the unconscious speaks intermittently of things the subject has no knowledge of. she did not let on that she knew the misadventure awaiting her heroine. Originally meaning the weakening of the signal in radio transmissions. the word exposed well expresses the amb iguous effectiveness of the second-story structure.) structures. Most utteran ces. Rather than force a purely psychoanalytic reading in which the text would be compared to a patient undergoing analysis. allowing intermittent reception of other wavelengths. I would prefer to take fading as a metaphor for a liter ary structure of significant complexity. She knew how fragi le desire is. and the fading is the point at which th e speaker s desire can never be recognized. in a section called Le fading des voix the fading of voices. lies revealed. It happens.oting both dissertation form and voyeuristic pleasures. She knew desire throws up fortifications. writes Barthes. The subject is thus subverted and split. in a classical text. as if it were disappearing into a hole of the discourse. but kept it in the second-story mode. what Katherine Mansfield knew.

In the breac hes Bertha s thoughts make in the story of the grotesques. Bliss is plural in intermittently and partially allowing the second story to be heard. but do the reader have an answer to Bertha s question? Harry s love affair will obviously bring change s to Bertha s desire for her husband. telling herself the story of the adulterous love af fair. as if from a different wavelength a voice posing questions for the reader. but how much can the reader say about Bertha s comprehension of Pearl Fulton? How vast and deep is Bertha s forced insight? It is my contention that each reader will answer differently. Are we not deceived when the narrative explains: Bertha had fallen in love with [Pearl Fulton]. and the gist of my answer ties in the dynamic of fading. whose gaps permit the enunciation to migrate from one point of view to the other. Her homosexual desire is revealed only in the structures t hat hide it and keep it hidden even beyond the end of the story. found out the secret. Allusion. posed on different wavelengths and seized at times by an abrupt fading. that role is strictly the reader s. one hears the point at which Bertha s desire can never be recognized. We think we have at last understood the myster y. then reading turns our knowledge to misprision about where our desire to know comes from. devious. Vol. It is a measure of the power of Bliss that readers want to go well beyond its ending to say what happens next. the second story throbs behind the wall of her fort ification. until. When the story stops. and ironic mechanisms of the narrative. Fortifications remain necessarily in place. as she always did fall in love with beautiful women who had something strange about them ? Is this an excessive.voices. or is the text forcing us to argue that the direct. but we do so only if we think of Bertha as a real person. Bertha can never recognize her relation to her self. Bertha is not allowed to recognize the censor that guards the door of insight. Image. from its still obscured beginning in female desire to its vulgar exposure among the grotesques. intermittently. with the fading of these inane and ironic voices. solved the enigma. In the lapses of the shimmering exchange of multiple voices the ones in Bertha s head. 1994. Fading subsumes all the double. anothe r voice is heard. 1. 41 52. overt meaning i s the disguised one? As long as we affirm that we are knowledgeable about how language the language of narrative fu nctions. rhetorical expression of Bertha s enthusiasms. Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss in Narrative. pp. No. the reader continues. no more than anyone can. 2. Source: Armine Kotin Mortimer. without w arning. and Associative Pattern: The Answers in Mansfield s Bliss . No more than Bertha do we know what is going to happen now.

These allusions not only answer the crucial questions but they also ill uminate the meaning of the tale. Mansfield has answered these questions in the story by interweaving all usions to two sources the Bible and Shakespeare s Twelfth Night whose major role in Bliss has been lar ely ignored. What is Bertha s bliss ? What does Pearl Fulton represe nt and to what does her name allude? Why a pear tree instead of an apple? Was Bertha really col d? Is she hysterical? Would would happen now ? Why. among the punishments God metes out to the disobedient Eve is: thy desire shall be to th y husband and he shall rule over thee. According to Allusion.Bliss Katherine Mansfield s most ambiguous story of initiation. is the pear t ree as lovely as ever ? Yet. she desired her husban d. Mansfield appears to indicate an easy familiarity with the long tradition of bib lical commentary. at the end of such a crisis of disillusionment. for the first time in her life. In visiting this affliction on Bertha at the very moment that she first experiences marital lust.16. Perhaps because critics have seen all too clearly the obvious tree of knowledge blooming in Bertha s garden. s ome of which have plagued critics for years. It appears as a familiar echo in the words. while simultaneously charting the anatomy of its creation. Image. none seems to have detected the first overt clue to the thematic importance of t he Bible. and Associative Pattern: The Answers in Mansfield s Bliss . In Genesis 3. poses many problems.

The garden in which this young pair learns the consequences of sin is populated not only by a wondrous tree about which all knowledge revolves but also by animals. in a modern form. And there was cake. like a modern Eve. Mansfield s more indirect use of the words of Genesis is overbalanced by a closer attention to the intent and material of it. she has read the Bible for hours on end.20). which. directly before and after Eve is first sentenced to a life of connubial desire. In both stories. there are numerous phrases so similar in image and content to those Mansfield us es in Bliss that the story seems to be almost a gloss upon the Bible. Genesis answers Bertha s last question: What is going to happen now? If. Following her own associ ative thought patterns. In sorrow [she] will bring forth children while Harry. readers will not be surprised to find still further relations between the words and events of Bliss nd those of Genesis 3. Mansfield wrote the story Psychology in which a character playfully r rks. will now eat the herb of the field in sorrow . And God saw that it was Good. is Berth A Young. Bliss pursues the theme by chapter and verse. the parallels between the biblical work and Mansfield s story are so close that the words of Genesis may inf orm the reader not only of what Bertha s life was before the day of her maturation but also of what her futur e will be. . Bertha has lived in a fool s paradise which is destroyed by knowledge. She will know that Harry sees her as Adam saw Eve after the Fall a s the mother of all living (Gen. Furthermore. But I feel s o bitterly that they ought to be part of my breathing.17). This is so much the case that God h imself answers Bertha s question about her future. What will happen now is that Bertha will desire only her husband and he will dominate her life. since she came to Bandol where she wrote Bliss in 1918. the fate of their first models. In Bliss. who has ta sted another form of the forbidden fruit of knowledge. Bertha s future children will be begotten in sorrow and bitterness born of the knowledge she has gained. a ll the days of [his] life (Gen. And God said. 3.both Augustinian and Talmudic interpretation. The evidence that the words of Genesis were deeply embedded in her mind appears in a diary entry of February 1916 in which she rema rks that. during the same brief period of feverish work in which she produced Bliss. words or phrases from Genesis appear in brief but they set up r everberations which guide the reader s responses to all subsequent events. Because Mansfield s metamorphosis of this chapter of Genesis remains so close to i ts source. 3. She wr here of wanting to know if Lot followed close on Noah or something like that. In fact. In the same chapter of Genesis. . In this way. Let there be cake. lust entered the world as a result of the Fall. then she and Harry are destined to repeat. in Mansfield s punning paraphrase. Mansfield has linked the denizens of the first garden and the Youngs garden with a .

This is a sad. sad fall!.the behavior of Adam and Eve and also with Darwinian evolutionary theory. his last Allusion. so Face wears a yellow k dress that looks like scraped banana skins and she is later described as crouched before the fire in her banana skin. have opened their house and garden to beasts from a number of literary fields. Mansfield compa res them to monkeys. No sooner has Bertha noticed the simian clothing and physiognomy of h er guest than Mr. which they made in Genesis 3 to hide their shame at their newly discovered nakedness. The rest of Face s outfit echoes Adam s and Eve s first attempt at clothing. As God create d for Adam and his helpmeet coats of skins (3. Image. it becomes apparent that the innocent Bertha and her hairy mate. so perfectly matched with her mate. and Associative Pattern: The Answers in Mansfield s Bliss . Norman Knight remarks on parenthood and paradise. Wh en the perambulator comes into the hall . for Face Knight. Mug. You know our shame. . Here the reader must wonder if Mansfield is using her Bible to deliver a post-Da rwinian stab at English society. Gradually. Eddie Warren. The Norman Knights are also com pared to first forebears by their name but they are now the forebears of English society. . . is wearing a funny little coat h monkeys all over it and looks like a very intelligent monkey.21) to help them hide their shame. The final link of this particular chain which seems to s tretch through Mansfield s mind from Bible to Bliss is forged when Norman Knight remarks in parting. an e motional primate if there ever was one. . .

she whispers and intimates. hence hardly a like ly candidate for seduction by a woman.3). . are so slender that a pale light seemed to come from them ) but also foc us the reader s attention on her cool arm. Pearl has been called a moon to Bertha s sun and a parallel to the pear tree. Bertha cannot see the truth until she glimpses the kiss.ters her assigns her another identity. the common Talmudic and patristic interpretation of the serpent s role in tempting Eve seems far more appropriate a view. for it is barely audible. is so distorted a view of Eddie that it makes little sense if Pearl is not seen as the serpent. Only then does Bertha begin to see her mysterious friend in a new light. full of whispers and murmurs. Pearl is infin itely tempting. Mansfield has. Yet. is a stuttering rabbit. With that kiss. Bertha s innocence falls and her blissful illusions are destroyed. cool-skinned an d cool-souled. Bertha s image of Pearl followed by Eddie. . In fact. Pearl s seduction of Bertha awakens Bertha s lust for her own husband. However. dressed in white socks and an enchanting white scarf to match. it is Pearl who ask if there is a garden. Pearl whose coo l arm could fan fan start blazing blazing the fire of bliss that Bertha did not know what to do with. But. Bertha is not even certain what Pearl murmured about the pear tree or if she had guessed that Pearl said. Pearl now appears to her hostess to resemble the seductive gray cat who had prov oked a shiver of sexual revulsion in Bertha earlier in the evening. Pearl is s t at enigma that everyone who encoun. Terri fied by his taxi ride. intimating. if we see Pearl as a se rpent. after all. Her lidded eyes conceal her passion for Harry. Clearly the grey cat. in other removing all doubt of his nature and habitat. like moonbeams. dressed in scaly silver. and a black one. Mansfield s descriptions of Pearl emphasize not on ly Pearl s lunar qualities (she is dressed all in silver with a silver fillet binding her head and he r fingers. painted Eddie as effeminate at least and homosexual at most. heavy eyelids. its . [as it] crept across the l awn. One critic believes that Bertha s new vision of Pearl is evoked by a horror of the bestiality she perceives in her former love. According to this traditional understanding of the Bible. No longer the distant and enchantin g moon of Bertha s hopes. whic h has also been identified with Bertha and Harry. But she is secretive. dragging its belly . it was the serpent s sed uction of Eve that first induced her to lust for Adam. since she considers t hat Pearl s purity has been sullied by the heterosexual behavior Bertha abhors. Her c onversation merely amplifies the mystery. 3. Thus. and [mysterious] half smile. the subtlest beast of the field (Gen. as the seductive gray cat followe d the black cat. Eddie speaks in conversation al tones and patterns that often echo those of Alice in Wonderland s white rabbit. Enigmatic. just that when s he looked out at the tree in the garden.

Image. Bliss. and Associative Pattern: The Answers in Mansfield s Bliss . That the discoveries which cause her so much pain should take place at a dinner party celebrated in a house with a flowering fruit tree is no coincidence. By the time Bertha reali zes that the bliss with which she has burned is sexual desire and then sees that desire mocked (all with in moments). she has tasted the fruit of the tree and found it a bitter dessert to the banquet of sight and taste she has laid for herself and her guests. Then. Critics who have noted the importance of the imagery of food and eating in this tale have ignored standard biblical associations among lust. o In every possible way. Pearl fulfills the role of the serpent in the garden. No. Until Bertha gains the carnal knowledge which will be revealed to her .shadow trail[ing] after. and knowledge so clearly introduced in Mansfield s references to the food and eating which led to the Fall and lead to this fall. as she begins to fear the intensity she tries to repress it. Bertha s first import ant act in the story is associated with these elements. and is intended to remind readers of f the serpent of Genesis which God punished by decreeing that it should crawl on its belly. crying. Like t he rest of these temptresses. As the tale Allusion. fruit. she is incapable of understanding that what they share is a lust for Harry. she is strangely secretive while seeming to be so open and Bertha i s certain that they share something. She is one of those beautiful women with something strange about them with whom Bertha is always falling in love. The reader can see this link in her conflict between the en joyment of temptation and her fear of succumbing to it. reminds Bertha. no. First she luxuriates in the beauty of the fruits she h as bought for the party. I m gettin g hysterical.

There is no concert for us. eggs become the crucial bonds in the marriage. then instruments and the music not played on them represent human bodies and sexual f rustration and/or repression. the reader. Music is the food of love. though they occur only three times i n the story. the passion. flesh. and the music becomes increasingly specific. reminding us of the embryonic Youngs and their new infant. In the forms of the new cook s omelettes and the admirable soufflé. like Bertha. The musical refrains. Harry loves the white flesh of lobster and pis tachio ices green and cold like the eyelids of Egyptian dancers. After Bertha sees Harry and Pearl embracing. the nature of the imagery shifts fr om its focus on the food to be eaten to a new emphasis on the act of eating it. Bertha longs to dance. When Harry kisses Pearl with his lips curled back in a hideous grin. in this tale at least . Isn t there? Is it all over? Is our desire and longing and e agerness. If fruits and flesh and the devouring of these represent desire and consummation as well as knowledge. they are central. the images of fruit and eating become less abstract and aesthetic and more active and hostile. What might be so divine is out of tune or the instruments are all silent and nobody is going to play again. Why have a baby i . At the very outset of the tale. and desire is clarified. quite all that s left? Shall we sit here forever in this immense wretched hall waiting for the lights to go up which will never go up. For her purposes. That is precisely what Bertha does at the end of course. With this shift. Mansfield s succeeding words are irrelevant. the cannibalis m which has been vaguely implied now becomes glaring. bowl a hoop. fruit becomes the visible apple of temptation (at one point in the story it is a tangerine turning in Pearl s fingers). The most emotinally evocat ive dish is made of eggs. Pearl rolls a tangerine between her luminous fingers. Oh. is there no way you can express it without being drunk and disorderly ? How idiotic civilization is! Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare rare fiddle? Bertha s protest against the social requirement that she quash her ebullienc e becomes a louder aria when Nanny removes the baby from her embrace: How absurd it was. Marilyn Zorn quotes Mansfield s letter of May 24. Hence. and it is Harry who shu t[s] up shop or turns out the lights. Like the eating of the fruit.and Bertha s growth simultaneously progress. sees him devouring this delectable woman whose serenity he had earlier attributed to a good stomach. or simply laug h at nothing in the streets to express her bliss. are central and the association between the fruits. is forbidden. for their connection with sex. to Ottoline Mo rrell in which Mansfield cries. and eating becomes the act of lust born of knowledge. inspiring Ha rry s praise which makes Bertha almost weep with childlike pleasure. the playing of music. 1918. for ours.

nor has she played. which celebrates the Feast of Tw elfth Night or Epiphany. What a pity someone does not play! What a pity someone does not play! Indeed. Now fully aware and unsuccessfully trying to repress her thoughts and fears abou t that moment at which she will share the bed with a husband she suddenly desires. explains in part why Berth a s beloved tree is a pear tree. a hidden pun on both the original fall from grace and the musical form of a dying fall. This reference creates a musical tie which binds all the images and references o f Bliss. Like the primary biblical allusion. Image. to a woman s bod y grows into a piano. the fiddle shaped like a pear and analogue. like the pear. this secondary Shakespearean allusion from the opening lines of the play not only recapitulates the theme of the Fall but. Bertha s body has not been play ed. food. and the shattering of Bertha s innocence: Allusion. Mansfield has subtly al luded to Shakespeare s Twelfth Night. The lines alone explain the musical references in Bliss and show the relations betwe en love. and Associative Pattern: The Answers in Mansfield s Bliss . Associating the tree of knowledge with the food of love. a play she knew almost by heart. Bertha runs to the piano .f it has to be kept not in a case like a rare string fiddle but in another woman s arms? Finally. in so doing. But now the fruit of carnal knowledge is about to be transmuted into the music of desire and the passion arising from both is about to suffer a dying fall.

Pearl s wooer.4) To observe Mansfield s whole train of thought. But the connections among the pairing and the pear tree and the structure and imagery of Twelfth Night run deeper still. i s everywhere in Bliss Bertha and Harry. one cannot help noting. there . is closely related to the viol or fiddle to which Bertha compares her caged body. of shadow selves which Mansfield had cherished so long and embodied in her story Sun and Moon. a year before she wrote Bliss Mansfield mentioned. But Mansfield s personal and aesthetic interests might have been far more effectiv e than her reading in directing her choice of associations which formed Bliss. Mo re important. The pear tree of Bliss may be Mansfield s conscious or unconscious pun on pair . In Twelfth Night. the reader must consider the entire play. for the story is itself full of pairs and even possibly alter egos. heterosexual love is the goal to ward which the play strives and pairing is. Mansfield h ad been both a cellist and a passionate lover of gardens and pear trees. as Magalaner suggests. It is only after meeting Viola s twin. Sebastian. of female love which leads to male-female unions. whom Viola had feared was dead. that Olivia transfers her affection to him and gives him a pearl as a love token. after all. at first. and the spiritual twins. Thus. Twelfth Night is a play of pairing and couples. conceive a passion fo r her. Viola. conversation set to flowers. as in Bliss. In Murry s volume the letter immediately succeeding the letter to Ottoline Morrell was a note to Virginia Woolf about the . Bertha and Pearl (Bertha s gift to Harry). the theme of sexual confusion. Mug and Face. recapitulate this favorite theme. Pearl and Eddie. the b lack and gray cats. sadly winning her for Harry. the importance of writin g about a flower garden with people in it: walking in the garden several pairs of people their conversation their slow pacing the ir glances as they pass one another. only to discover that she is not eligible. A kind of. to oblige Orsino. suggesting the lust which the fruit of the tree evoked. of pairing of opposites. indeed. play on. just another name for copulation. one which Magalaner has noted. Viola courts Olivia. and Berth a is. Large portions of the play take place in a garden which belongs to Olivia. Viola is dressed as a man and Olivia does. as she called them in a letter to M urry of 1920. Give me excess of it that surfeiting. of confused and confusing sexuality. musically speaking. in a letter to Ottoline Morrell. Since girlhood. Magalaner notes that.1. The appetite may sicken and so die. Mansfield was interested throughout her life in shadow selves.If music be the food of love. That strain again! it had a dying fall! (Twelfth Night I.

If these two types of sources. shed light on the relationship between Bertha and Pearl. for example. Might they not also. she thought c onstantly of her beloved brother. Mansfield s friend Virginia Woolf. Image. who had recently been killed in the war. There s a still. How often the two of them had sat on the bench beneath the pear tree in Tinakori Road in New Zealand and ex changed confidences . it would be illogical to ignore their potential influe nce upon the meaning of the story. a pear tree was one of the most importa nt to Mansfield and. The new home which she and Murry first rented in England had a garden with a pear tree. consistently c larify Mansfield s use of images and symbols in the story. some critics of the story have dwelled far too emphatically. she must have been thinking of it. the biographical and the literary. hated Allusion. for example? Upon th is love. central as they seem to be to Mansfield s consciousnes s at the time she wrote Bliss. your Flower Bed is very good. Convinced that she was d ying after the major hemorrhage which preceded the writing of this story by a few days. Chummie. at the time of the writing of Bliss. quivering changing light over it all and a sense of those couples dissolving in the bright air which fascinates me Of all the plants and trees in a garden.sketch Kew Gardens : Yes. and Associative Pattern: The Answers in Mansfield s Bliss .

as Mansfield s portrayal of Harry s callousness sugg She . for. But nothing in the story suggests this. she resents the restrictions of a society that demands she cage her body. maudlin tale of lesbianism. Harry. the growth. is missing something something that throws a pall over her marriage. Surely these are not the responses of a frigid woman. and surely part of what she is missing is the understanding husband who would not hasten her off the phone. . and she have discussed her problem and he has explained that he is different. to hold her child are symptoms of hy steria. Despite the fact that readers conventionally accept a narrator s st atements about him or herself. Finally. but her desire for her husband is both new and startling to her. That Bertha s testimony about her own proclivities is not necessarily reliable is attested to by the sardonic tone. glorying in the colors of fruit. Bertha seems to have admitted to frigidity when she reflected that it had worried her dre adfully at first to find that she was so cold. Bertha s crushes on women are nothing new in her life. li ke Nebeker. Heterosexual love is the source of the excitement. The so urce of her conviction that she is frigid lies elsewhere at the site of her discovery that she is so cold. in feelings she can hardly contain. . Bertha considers a bedtime discussion with Harry about what she and Pearl share. Bertha s self-evaluation. It is the s ame source from which she learns that her desire to dance and sing. In both Twelfth Ni ght and Bliss youthful and innocent love is homosexual. truncate her expre ssion of feeling.Bliss. no matter how afraid she is of her first real sexual encounter. the desperate contradiction of her Really. She imagines that this conversation will promote the spiritual understanding that will culminate in their first passionate physical union. it is Harry s cool voice which sets the seal on Bertha s fear and suffering. she learns the sorrow of kno wledge. she enjoys her child s flesh and resents the woman who withdraws it from her. Bertha s disillusionment over the impossibility of fulfilling her terrifying but exciting new desire matures her. Critics have cited Bertha s frigidity as the most incontrovertible proof of her le sbianism. She experiences bliss. Too much of her behavior argues against frigidi ty. Later critics. the r eal passion. in smells and sights. In fact. in this instance. as if both authors were chronicling the normal Engl ish schoolgirl stage of maturation. cannot be taken at face value . really she had everything. Ultimately. Is the rest the passion she lacks or is it. have argued that Bertha s real goal is Pearl and that the sorrow she experiences is a r esult of Pearl s rejection of her for Harry. . That source is the society she identifies as the one which will call her drunk and disorderly if sh e gives vent to her passions. through this loss of hope. she aches to communicate her bliss to Harry though it is hopeless to do so. After all. it is the idiotic civilization which demands that she imprison her feeling s and her body. Bertha is highly sensual. which she considered a shallow.

Mansfield has disclosed the cast of her mind. yet she still emerges as a passionate woman. In marrying these sources to produce so carefully unified a story. obser ving the conventions of social respectability which pinion her whims and moods. till the tree die! The tree would die. have neglected one major aspect of Mansfield s autobiography to which both her letters as well as her journals draw a ttention. 1918 written only a wee k after completing Bliss. Bertha learns that the fruit of d esire is death. Magalaner noted a letter to Murry written just days before the completion of Bliss in which Ma nsfield speaks of her love for Murry in terms of food and eating. Hang there like fruit. Critics who have often pointed out how autobiographical the tale is. m y soul. and these morbid thoughts intermingle with visions of Allusion. She concludes. Bertha acts the good wife and mother. the passion he tells her she lacks? Throughout the story. for there is always a snake in the garden and the music of passion always suffers a dy ing fall. Twelfth Night is much on her mind. She notes often at this time that she is thin king of death (because of her own severe hemorrhage and Chummie s death). Mansfield remarked to Murry: My Shakespeare is full of notes for my children to li ght on. In a letter to Murry.ests. The purveyors of these c onventions appear in the forms of Nanny and Harry. wh ose words she recited constantly. Image. Mansfield was devoted to Shakespeare and the Bible and was especially absorbed in Genesis at t he time she wrote Bliss. When she finally experiences the marital lust so improper in a good English matron. and Associative Pattern: The Answers in Mansfield s Bliss . She spoke of her desire to know the Bible as well as she knew Shakespeare. dated March 4.

blooms eternally without blemish. naught enters there. Summer. 1986 pp. spirit of love.9 15) Twelfth Night tells us what has happened. they are set against an archetypal quest for knowledge which will always end in the too dreadfully eternal discovery that sweet fruit turns bitter when bliss fades. They live out long lives in a twilight sorrow. No. The Hidden Love Triangle in Mansfield s Work In her study of Katherine Mansfield s art. notwithstanding thy capac ity Receiveth as the sea.1. and by the use of those punctuation marks she waives a mass of description and psychology. The intellectual and emotional recipe for Bliss is revealed in these threads of thought recorded in Mansfield s journals and letters. O. In her short story Bliss this technique is most apparent. and Associative Pattern: The Answers in Mansfield s Bliss. in a si gnificant passage occurring just after Bertha Young has her first experience of sexual desire for her husband: But . She is filled with what she calls either a rage of bliss or bliss she longs to share unexplained. It is indirect. how quick and fresh art thou! That. In the mythic world in w hich the pear tree. 32. Only Bertha is expelled. But falls into abatement and low price Even in a minute! (Twelfth Night I. Of what validity or pitch soe er. both the story and the title of Sun and Moon are conceived at this same time. but those who see thei r paradise fade survive. which hints and suggests rather than asserts. Anne Friis draws special attention to t he style. in Twentieth Century Literature. 242 54. it remains firmly rooted in perfect Eden.gardens and food. now forever out of Bertha s reach. Accompanied by t he unplayed music of Twelfth Night Bertha Young relives the epiphany of Genesis in a London garden. How she regarded the conclusion of t he story is not. the mystery of the concluding lines is solved by finishing the speech from Twelfth N ight which both opens the play and sets the musical key of the story. The pear tree remains as lovely as ever and as still because. Eddie Warren s last words about the eternal quality of the lines: Why must it always be tomato soup? bear the wisdom of the Shak espearean clowns. like the tree o f knowledge. Allusion. Mansfield abbreviate s crucial thoughts or statements with dots and dashes. Neaman. Vol. Coincidentally perhaps. The lasting beauty and seductiveness of the tree sound an ironic note of contrast with the imperfection of the love they provoke and disclose. Image. Source: Judith S. perhaps. 2. Genesis tells us that what happened on ce will happen again and again. Yet. illuminated only by a memory of an irr etrievable bliss. The work ends on an elegiac note: innocence dies quickly. it is elliptic.

In accordance with this interpretation. a revelation which shatters her growing sense of marital bliss. . Edward Shanks faults Mansfield for making this central subject so obvious. goes into establishing the precarious external dependency of Bertha s bliss. she appears to say. you see. but that Bertha also loves Miss Fulton. Previous critics ge nerally seem to agree that Bliss embodies a provocative study in mood and feeling within a conventional love-tr iangle plot. Disillusionment. he argues. Robert Heilman identifies two main ironies: Bertha s realization that her admired Miss Fult on shares her own unique bliss. at the end. All h er art. because the point of Bertha s disillusionment is not that both she a nd her friend love Harry and Harry loves Pearl instead of his wife. and then her discovery that the shared mood has the same origin fo r each love for Harry. The Hidden Love Triangle in Mansfield s Work . Only a proper understanding of the psychological mean ing of the story s action enables us to complete correctly that final sentence. Actually the story is more subtle than Shanks imagines and more complex ly ironic than Heilman has proposed. and it is a disas trous descent to a lower plane when. . . might have come in some such way as ardently! ardently! The word ached in her ardent body! Was this what that feel ing of bliss had been leading up to? But then then . The climax has been seen as Bertha s discovery that her husband Harry and her friend P earl Fulton are lovers.

to stretch up. the touch of whose arm kindled Bertha s passion into a blaze. If she desires Harry. was this what that feeling of bliss had been leading up to? The answer is no. Before understanding the significance of this moment for Bertha. Almost completely unaware of the homosexual nature of her attraction to Pearl. yet Bertha. In answe r. in silver flowers. all Bertha can do is obey. and wondering wh at they were to do in this one with all this blissful treasure that burned in their bosoms an d dropped. Bertha imagines that Miss Fulton at last gave the sign for which she had l ong been waiting. The ent ire bearing of the action suggests that Bertha s and Pearl s desires have neither the same origin nor the same object. as Bertha. silver moon. when she recalls the lovely pear tree pear tree pear tree. the silver flower to Bertha s yearning desire must be thinking as she stands next to her lover s wife. After d inner. Bertha ad mits that she actually has less than nothing to justify her suspicion that their inclinations coincide. like the flame of a candle. so different from what Pe arl the silver moon. then then (the sentence Bertha is unable to complete) what has Miss Fulton had to do with it all? Being together in a warm bed with Harry. How long did they stand there? Both. in her dreamy self-delusion. In guessing Miss Fulton s mood. Alt hough it was so still seemed. Or did Bertha The thoughts and feelings here belong to Bertha s dream. Both the as it were and the final question undercut Bertha s hopes for a silent communion with her new find. as it were. both in this scene and at the close.It is safe to say that Pearl Fulton does not. in the course of the party. to quiver in the bright air. we must con . ecstatically: And the two women stood side by side looking at the slender. caught in that circle of uneart hly light. gives free rein to her coursing desire. But she cannot fill in the sexual gaps hen ce the all-significant dash and her wondering perplexity. from their hair and hands? For ever for a moment? And did Miss Fulton murmur: dream it? Yes. understanding each other perfectly. Earlier in the evening she had ecstatically contemplated thi s tree in company with Miss Fulton. to grow taller and taller as they gazed almost to touch the rim of the round. to point. contra Heilman. over coffee and cigarettes. Bertha quite logically supposes that her pass ion though fanned throughout the evening by imaginary communications with Miss Fulton is for her husband Harry. Just that. she asks in apparent disbelief. The indefiniteness of the sign forces the reader to mark the disparity between Miss Fulton s words and what Bertha makes of them: Have you a garden? said the cool sleepy voice. flowering tree. share Bertha s unique bliss. creatures of another world. imagines she must.

). but after a time it had not seemed to matter. she d understood that he was different. Bertha would not go. Just befor e the close of the story. she thinks: Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a ra re. Mansfield reveals the crucial fact that Bertha and her husband are simply good pals: Oh. but ju st not in that way. They were so frank with each other such good pals.sider those passages of ng scene of immediately earlier thought and feeling which resonate both with it and with the startli disillusionment following. . The Hidden Love Triangle in Mansfield s Work . Beyond a certain point. It s not what I mean. The real issue that Bertha will not pursue is the origin of this indifference. . that about the fiddle is not quite what I mean. They d discussed it so often. rare fiddle? The thought of her body s not being used bears implications causing her to resist her analogy: No. It had worried her dreadfully at first to find that she w as so cold. she d loved him she d been in love with him. of course. running up the steps and feelin g in her bag for the key . Early in the story we receive an insight into Bertha s stifled sexual feelings. she thought. simultaneously forcing her to acknowledge that Harry cannot be blamed for her se xual indifference. of course. equally. And. How idiotic civilization is. in every other way. The idea would bring Harry to mind. because (ibid. an d she nervously allows herself to be distracted from pursuing her thoughts.

she rushes up to the nursery to hold her baby girl. . and again she didn t know how to express it what t o do with it. She observes in the mirror her trembling lips and feels that she is waiting for something . semihysterical blis s heightened by thoughts of . rich blossoms. yet overwhelmingly powerful. . house. but fin ds nothing to say. cook . The flowering pear tree is a com posite symbol representing in its tallness Bertha s homosexual aspirations and in its full. Although modernity had its advantages. This evening gives her a sense of other po ssibilities. pa ssions. . though repressed. . Bertha s excited anticipation of Pearl s imminent vis it causes her bosom to glow unbearably as if a shower of little sparks were exploding. slender pear tree in fullest. But when the nanny deprives her of this outlet. money. which Helen Nebeck claims is what Bertha seeks. that she knew must happen . To the end of the story it remains a strongly felt urge only vaguely defined. however. passionately. A few other critics. infallibly (Mansfield s ellipses). spiritu al relationship with a woman. and a husband) she still feels unsatisfied. Hours before the dinner party. Oh. Mansfield initially presents Bertha in a state of unfocused. Yet she obviously is. As Bertha flings herself down on the couch in ecstasy. she seemed to see on her ey elids the lovely pear tree with its wide open blossoms as a symbol of her own life : the open flowers image he r female sexual self. richest bloom standing as thoug h becalmed at the end of the garden. the masculine part of her sexual feelings. . a woman of ardent. passionately. perceive a phallic symbolism i n the tree. on the contrary! R eleasing the cushion. all the feeling of bliss came back again. as we have seen. . and connect it with Harry. vague perhaps. he r desire to be sexually used. but the meaning and object of the tree s tall assertiveness. though the reader on ly learns later that Pearl has caused this excitement. The tree does not stand either for Harry s sexuality or for a pure. Anne Friis and Chester Eisinger interpret the tree as a s ymbol of nature s indifference to human suffering. Although she tries to pretend that she is happy ( She had everything : baby. But it did not put out the fire in her bosom. Her thoughts return to her expected guests and the arrangement of the living room: As she was about to throw the last [sofa cushion] she surprised herself by suddenly hugging it to her. To a ppease her excitement. civilization was idiotic if one s body was shut up in a case. Bertha beholds the tall.That was the best of being modern. She flies to the phone to answer Harry s call and to get in touch for a moment with him. eludes her conscious recognition. Bertha hardly dared to breathe for fear of fanni ng it higher. friends. When Bertha compares her lack of desire with Harry s sexual appetite (his difference). she thinks of herself as cold. divine to happen .

with tha t little air of proprietorship that she always assumed while her women finds were new and mysterious. she may be thinking about Harry. .Miss Fulton. For her part. In believing that she and Pearl are The Hidden Love Triangle in Mansfield s Work t . afterward trying to draw them out. however. too? that Miss Fulton . Bertha smiles. Bertha is sure. blase. whom she had met at the club: And Bertha had fallen in love with her. was feeling just what she was feeling. sh e does not specify: Up to a certain point Miss Fulton was rarely. her most recent find. Bertha feels much as she did earlier in the afternoon when sparks seemed to ligh t up in her bosom: What was there in the touch of that cool arm that could fan fan start blazing blazing the fi re of bliss that Bertha did not know what to do with? Although Pearl does not look directly at her hostess . she forgets until Harry enters the house that Pea rl Fulton had not turned up. most intimate look had passed between them as if they had said to eac h other: You. as if the longest. Pearl is simply casual. Mansfield repeats the as if o heighten the contrast between the apparent facts and what Bertha would most like to believe. Bertha does not consciously know herself the tendency of her own solicitations. . but the certain po int was there. When her guests begin to arrive. as she always did fall in love with beautiful women who had something stran ge about them. wonderfully frank. Her thoughts shuttle back and forth from Harry to Miss Fulton in a pattern of association which gains significance as the crisis builds. but Bertha clearly does not. Upon seizin g Pearl s arm. When Pearl does arrive. that Be rtha habitually finds and picks up beautiful women. We note. Toward what end. and beyond that she would not go. Mention of her falling in love elicits at first only casual attention. since the phrase characterizes Bertha s hypersensibility and exaggerated manner of expression.

she simply has to laugh or die. like a very intelligent monkey. Treasure that burned in their bos oms echoes the earlier phrase. . the sexually symbolic silver flowers. there was the pear tree. who. and the visit to the garden to contemplate the pear tree. The phrase wonderi ng what they were to do . and still for the tree specifically recall Bertha s perception of it while squeezing the sofa cushion with passion. and give t he sign she secretly longs for. silver. While she waits for the sign t o come. . which sh e didn t know how to express or what to do with. in the light of poor dear Eddie s moon. slender. It would be silver now. The adjectives tall. with all this blissful treasure parallels Bertha s previous feelings. Harry. Then comes the sign. Mansfield expands her primary symbolism in an event which c limaxes Bertha s mood. as she feels it infallibly must. and yet what had she to go on? Less tha n nothing. Bertha is doomed to disappointment at the close of the even ing. She is left wondering what she is to do with her unknown and unfulfilled desires . She diverts herself by observing Mr s. in her bosom there was still that bright glowing place that shower of littl e sparks coming from it. And always. Bertha has no more knowledge of what her own feelings mean than she would know what to do were Miss Fulton actually to go beyond a certain point. The conflicting tendencies within her psyche emerge in thoughts at cro sspurposes: Oh. toward the silvery blond Miss Fulton. though what she meant by that she did not ow. and what would happen after that she could not imagine. yet she is not absolute ly certain: she never doubted for a moment that she was right. Bertha feels that she has read Miss Fulton s mind exactly. Ironies multiply as Bertha imagines that she can share with him the feelings Pearl Fulton has inspired. silver as Miss Fulton. along with previous associa tions. as described above. After connecting the sil ver moon and the silvery blond Pearl. . quiveringly. is habitually tucking something he front of her bodice as if she kept a tiny. much as the pear tree seems to her to stretch up and touch the rim of t he round. in the back of her mind. Bertha returns to the world in which her marriage to Harry is a simple fact. For the moment everything that happens seems to fill her brimming cup of bliss: Ev erything was good was right. so Bertha imagines. The thought causes Bertha to dig her nails into her hands. When the lights in her house are turned on. The color silver now draws to itself. Norman [ Face ] Knight. Consequently she hopes that her friend will give a sign . The latter phrase also occurred in the description of Bert ha s thoughts upon taking hold of Pearl s arm after her arrival. feminine moon. in frankness. Some urge inside Bertha grows taller and taller as she stretches. secret hoard of nuts there.intimately in touch.

as are the tree and its flowers that symbolize them. as Miss Fulton holds her hand a mom ent longer to praise her lovely pear tree. leaving Bertha feeling empty and hopeless. Bertha. b esides. She s wonderful. What she and I have shared. And. and her pearl slips from her gr asp like quicksilver. I shall try to tell y ou when we are in bed tonight what has been happening. after all. who laid her moonbeam fingers on his cheeks and smiled her sleepy smile. For the first time in her life. Her pent-up desires are sti ll in full flower. rushes to the window to view the pear tree: Oh. not pursuing the implications even this far. we are told. what has Miss Fulton had to do with her excitement? Ber tha breaks off. confused and in pain. In another m oment she is gone. The unwitting irony of her praise is devastating. As the guests take their leave. The n she had so much desired has been reserved for Harry. if Harry. how can you feel so differently about someone who means so much to me. who seemed to fan the flames of he r ardor. Here Bertha attempts to trans fer her unconscious feelings for the woman onto her relationship with the man. what is going to happen now? she wonders. a stunned Bertha beholds Harry embrace and kiss Pearl.don t dislike her. Somehow she feels perplexed that her bliss has been leading up to Harry. Her eyes focus on Miss Fulton. she fee ls sexual desire for her husband. You are quite wrong about her. it was Pearl. Bertha touches those slender fingers only in parting. The Hidden Love Triangle in Mansfield s Work . But then then why Harry? or. and it is a strange and almost terrifying thought. according to what she knows her feeling for him conventionally ought to be. wonderful.

winter. Marvin Melanger als o identifies Bertha with her social set and stresses the satirical element of the story. she seems not so much detesta ble as immature and stupid. demanding servile. forcing the reader to make the necessary adjustment. selfish and unreasonable. for she goes on to admit: Bertha Young in Bliss to my mind exemplifies a misapplication of this tone. it exemplifies. the kind of joy which every practitioner of the art of fiction must feel when he successfull y detaches the object from himself. how much she delighted in achieving the perfect detail and the sufficient balance between for m and subject. undeviating attention from her men. parts of w hich Baldeshwiler summarizes: But when I am writing of another I want so to lose myself in the soul of the other tha I am not. Even a largely sympathetic critic like Sylvia Berkman has had difficulty with Bertha. has been misunderstood and misrepresented by the critics of this most popular of Katherin e Mansfield s stories.Throughout Bliss Mansfield ironically plays off a conventional love triangle against an unconventional one. given our cultural bias. In her essay examining Kat herine Mansfield s theory of fiction. 4. The act of faith. Eisinger goes so far as to say that the pear tree and Bertha s identification with it is nothing short of . s eeing her as representative of the brittle set among which she moves. But even more perfectly. that Bertha Young. pp. Certainly we may suppose that Mansfield felt her own essential freedom when lost in the soul of B ertha Young and her short-lived bliss. She subtly controls he r symbolism and other modes of suggestion and indirection to convey both the tendency of Bertha s peculiar fee lings and her lack of self-knowledge. tempermental. the absolute belief in one s own essential freedom. an impression I do not believe Miss Mansfield meant to convey. requires pure risk. her frigidity. It is hard to let go. her mind s apparent confused internal chaos make her a highly unreliable grade for the read r. Visionary Flowers: Another Study of Katherine Mansfield s Bliss in Twentieth It is perhaps inevitable. who yearne d to share her feelings of bliss with her husband and friends and failed to find the language that would commun icate it. 397 403. Bliss adequately illustrates both the care and the craft. 1982. The Hidden Love Triangle in Mansfield s Bliss entury Literature. an example of a modern metropolitan woman who is callous. Source: Walter E. Eileen Baldeshwiler reveals the degree to which this author cared about her craft. Miss Berkman is uneasy with this mold for Bertha. Volume 28. of surrender. yet one s creative life depends on it and one desires to do nothing else. No. the degree of ignorance in her bliss. Bertha s hyster ia. Anderson. perhaps. Mansfield carefully articulates this feeling in her letters.

. Perhaps her worst fault. childish. frigid. she demonstrates the emptiness of the claims. The story was written a week after the hemorrhage which signalle d the seriousness of her lung condition. Such a figure (no matter how self-contra dictory some of those qualities might be) of course deserves the disillusionment which comes to her at the end o f the story when she discovers her husband s and friend s affair. is that she has thought herself happy. in the very words which th e author frames her insistence. Even her bliss is suspect: .myopic sentimentalization. as Melanger in sists. for Visionary Flowers: Another Study of Katherine Mansfield s Bliss . And what seems to be primarily a critic s reaction against the character is attributed to the author. Poor Bertha! According to these critics. For Katherine Mansfield was not thinki ng small or smart at the time Bliss was composed. self-deluding. . naive. She turned he r back on her earlier. Like Keats in a similar situation she was henceforward co nvinced that she did not have enough time left to seal the accomplishment her work had promised. But to strip Bertha of her human dignity and to make the story into an unpleasan t little exposé of a social group and of a child-woman is to fail to recognize the author s state of mind duri ng the writing of the story and her hopes and intentions for her art. sentimental. she is quintessentially a female stereo type: timid. Katherine Mansfield is t hus brought forward as a witness against her character.

satirical voice. It is this awareness of the signatory aspect of nature which links Katherin e Mansfield to the Romantic poets. With signs of her mortality before her eyes. In another letter o f this time she borrows an image from Bliss : Oh dear. that the writing is a matter of necessity and that her powers are sufficient to her inspiration: One extraordinary thing has happened to me since I came out here. she wrote to Murry: Since this little attack I ve had. In a German Pension. but he or she is continually aware that such insight also includes its transcendence. Like Keats and Shelley. . for all the playfulness of her language. Clearly also there is in her letter to Murry at the conclusion of the first draft of Bliss the conviction that th e stories are crowding up on her. When K atherine Mansfield tells Murry that she has two starting points for writing the sense of joy and the cry agai nst corruption. she writes. Highly excited by Je ne parle pas francais and by J. Henc e to be a messenger of such a world also means that one must speak of its corruption in the real world. a queer thin g has happened. And she no longer needed to be. Once I start them they haunt me and plague me until they are finished and as good as I can do. the day after she hemorrhaged. But what I felt so se riously as I wrote it was oh! I am in a way grown up as a writer a sort of an authority. she forbade republication of that work at a time when she needed money. On Febr uary 20. Bliss n evertheless occurs during a strongly productive time in her career. and it would have been undoubtedly profitable for her to republish it because she no longer wanted to be identified as a clever. Moreover. which she cared enough about to memorize and whi ch she mentions both to Murry and to Lady Ottoline Morrell in letters at this time. offering intimations of a beauty and state of being which are transcendent. she is being as true to Shelley s vision that life Stains the white radiance of Eternity a s any twentieth-century writer can be. Clearly.her less satisfactory. In accord with that sense of powe r comes also a heightened sensitivity to nature which Katherine Mansfield ascribes to her illness. never possible except in hints and brief glimpses offered in the natural beauty of the world. she is exhilarated by the sense her art has matured . 1918. she sees nature as a veil for the ideal world. I feel that my love and longing for the external world I mean the world of nature has sudde nly increased a million times. Middleton Murry s reaction in praise of the story. Bliss s theme encompasses exactly the visio nary joy and the cry against corruption which we associate with the Romantics. Indeed. oh dear! you have lighted such a candle! Great b eams will come out of my eyes at lunch and play like search-lights over the pommes de terr e. It is the poet s task to testify to the visionary world s possibility. One of the una cknowledged sources for the story is Shelley s poem The Question. work on the New Age and her stories in the collection.

. The lack of a wareness on the part of those Visionary Flowers: Another Study of Katherine Mansfield s Bliss . In another letter to Ottoline Morrell she speaks of her sensitivity to the spring a nd her desire to share her feelings with someone: Why are human beings the only ones who do not put forth fresh buds exq uisite flowers and leaves? . the po em s last line asks the question which troubles Bertha throughout the story: Oh. We have all been wintry far too long Really. Finally. the season. those pearled arcturi of the earth / The constellated flower that never sets . A major assumption about the story must be. Pearl Fulton perhaps acquired her coolness and her connection with the moon from stanz as two and three: Daisies. .The poem is a sensuous description of a flowering countryside on a spring mornin g. on some of these days o ne is tired with bliss. followed in the next stanz a by the birth of flowers. that Bertha s state of mind and her need to share it with her friends and husband are seen as perfectly valid by the author. I long to tell someone to feel it immediately shared . to Whom can the vision be c ommunicated? A year later. increasing the sense of the strange in the poem and suggesting both the poet s vision and the unifying presence of love. and Shelley s poem are still linked together in the author s mind. There are animistic images which show the earth and the stream embracing. . / And in the warm hedge grew lush eglantine / Green cowbine and the moonlight-colored may The silver blossoms offered by Pearl and Bertha in the moment with the pear tree are an echo of the poem s speaker offering visionary flowers to his lover in the fifth stanza. then. . the emotion. The moon s presence on this morning scene is also invoked through the flower image ry.

There is no denying the i rony with which the author views her character. She chips away at the illusory nature of Bertha s happiness u ntil at the end nothing seems to be left of it. they are accustomed to think of themselves as powerless. not only to her hus band. Katherine Man sfield calls her an artist manquée and indicates that Bertha has the discrimination to separate language w hich is her own from language she has borrowed from someone else. It is obviously not enough for the artist to have the vision. but because she sounds like a woman. not be cause Bertha s speech is so empty and vacuous.close to her is seen as their incapacity. what a pity someone does not play. In speaking of Bertha to Murry. Indeed. not Bertha s. Bertha s feeling of joy will seem insignificant. it is better to ask what has caused Bertha s vision to falter. there she is throughout the story with her bliss. When they use women s speech. Their status is reflected by the ir women s speech. Thus. The thesis of Lakoff s book is that because women have accepted secondary roles in public and pr ivate life. as corrupt. there must be a language to communicate it and a community of listeners who speak the language to understand it when it is spoken. they reinforce all over again the conviction that they ar e powerless. in women s speech. It is Shelley s question again: Oh to Whom? Yet supposing Bertha had the tongues of angels to aid her. When Melanger criticizes Bertha s language he is reacting against it in Harr . it has traditionally been her language which has drawn most criticism from her readers. and her awakened sexual desire are genuine in the story not fraudulent and not sentimental. One might suggest that that is so. the only character who is so graced. the resemblance is strik ing. Bertha s intuitions about love and her child have used the same analogy: what good is the rare violin if it is shut up in a case and never played? Indeed. the most childlike of the story s characters. her brief glimpse of ideal womanhood. Katherine Mansfield uses the same an alogy to Ottoline Morrel: What might be so divine is out of tune or the instruments are all silent and no body is going to play again. Her intuition of the new l ife which might grow out of her awareness. if one compares her speech to the characteris tics of female speech identified by Robin Lakoff in Language and Woman s Place. She is able therefore to know what is genuine in herself. Katherine Mansfield gives her the two central metaphors of the story: the vision of the pear tree and the analogy for art. Since it would be difficult to speak of Bertha. if not yet in others. or our concept of how a particular kind of middle-class woman sounds. The remark must be taken symbolically. Still. Moreover. The failure of the vision is the result of those elements in the society and in the individual which Katherine Mansfield identified as corrupting. Bertha shows the same aesthetic sense in her remark about the piano: What a pity someone does not play. playing. but to her critics as well.

the distance between their sensibilities is emphasized. si x are Bertha s. She has a range of adjectives which only women use. the author has for her a variety of sent ence forms to imply elevated emotion and sensitivity: the rhetorical question. in trying to tell her husband about her bl iss during the phone conversation. recognizes that it will seem absurd to him and breaks off their ex change.y s stead: The breathless ecstasy of the passage quoted (the passage beginning Really really she has everythin g ) gives the lie to the words themselves. she hedges. Further. her secret admiration for his deflating jokes about h er enthusiasms. She uses the tag question to avoid self ertion. t he abrupt shift in syntax signalled by the dash. insures that she will not ask for intimate communication with him. Thus. When Bertha s breathless. Because her language for experience must stress its affective and subjective qualities. the unfinished sentence. Thus she will remain the i mpersonal good pal Visionary Flowers: Another Study of Katherine Mansfield s Bliss . The twice repeated really and overenthusiastic everything reve al the emptiness of the lines. Yet Harry s respon se to Bertha s emotion is to deny it and to hood his own. Bertha. Of the nine characteristics which denote female language for Lakoff. She uses so and such as intensifiers. the exclamation. like ne and little precious and incredibly beautiful. a major effect of Bertha s speech is to reinforce her sad awareness that she will not be able to communicate her vision. Her very sensitivity to her husband s insensitivity. Also emphasized is the difference in female and mal e speech. exclamat ory perceptions are contrasted with Harry s talk about digestion or the small talk of the dinner guest s. she speaks in italics. there will be few reference points in such a language beyond the self unless there is congruence of emotion. unless a sympathetic woman friend will share it. repetition.

The earlier imagery for the bliss has been a series of sun images. in silver flowers. has also been identified with it. which Bertha internalizes. it is well to look more closely at the images the author associates with the tree. Your lovely pear tree thus becomes a symbol of the desirability of human intimacy and the betrayal of it. as empty as one of her guest s stories. Sun and Moon. It is important that the reader not undervalue Bertha s vision. . The result is that the children will have nothing to do with the adult party world and demand to be taken away. they are allowed to approach the banquet table after the party is over. detached from the real world a nd its relationships. In their moment before the pear tree. Images which link the sun and the moon are for Katherine Mansfield holis tic. A dream story of a c hildhood experience shared by her brother and herself is called Sun and Moon.she perceives he wishes her to be in their marriage. the condition of pre-lapsarian innocence. like the flame of a candle. poss ess. supposedly enveloping both the women at this moment. Without it. to stretch up. Since it is the pear tree that draws toget her the characters and their emotions in the story. They are described as creatures of another world. and wondering what they are to do in this one with all this blissful treasure that burned in their bosoms and dropped. They suggest the earthly paradise. By the time Bertha and Pearl stand before the pear tree in their moment of intimacy. The children are allowed to wait up for a party their parents are giving. For it is one of the poles of feeling in the story. almost to the rim of the moon. Bertha feels her est rangement from them throughout the dinner party with the result that she grows more and more tense. bo th of the women have been identified with it. and so the moment at the window before the pear tree turns out to be one more imposture. . she desperately waits for a sign that she has shared her emotion . Bertha s disillusi onment is empty of significance. and the food and ices are spoiled. Afterwards. which seems to project an ideal order of relationship in nature: Although it was so still it seemed. They equally bear treasures of bliss an . They see the feast in all its splendor before the guests arr ive. Bertha s set generally seems to discount the language of emotion and enthusiasm or to parody it by exaggerating the banal until genuine emotion seems suspect. Because Pearl has seemed sympathetic. Now the sun image is linked with the moon through the candle metap hor. from their hair and hands ? In their ideal selves there is no distinction between the two women. although in terms of the story it is unrealized. Their parents are drunk. The woman who felt bliss earlier now feels a kind of hysteria at her inability to communicate with them . Moreover. to point. But she is unable to distinguish true intimacy from false. to quiver in the bright air. Bertha and Pearl have the same kind of perfection that the children. to grow taller and taller as they gazed . Bertha s bliss.

I shan t feel the slightest interest in her until she has a lover. For against Bertha s momentary glimpse of Pearl s and her own ideal self is projected another demonic vision of the world and its way with women. She d not only cut her hair. At that point in the story. Even Pearl. about the affair with Pearl. In her monkey attire. Knight. but she seemed to have taken a dreadfully good snip off her legs and arms and her poor l ittle nose. Beginning with Face. In counterpoint to Bertha s vision. and together with Face s experiences. What Bertha has discovered is the potential life all women possess. Indeed. Face feels that the train she has journeyed upon. the women in the real world of the story are threatened wit h actual and imagined acts of violence. both of the male guests show by their actions that they know. vaguely cannibalistic. His vulgarity is given a sinister turn by the double entendre in the joke about his daughter: My dear Mrs. What the vis ion suggests is that there are possibilities of relationships which are gracious and free. who might seem to have come off the winner in the real world of the story. The actress at the Alpha is the weirdest little person. Harry s passion for the white flesh of lobster and green pistachio ice s makes erotic love exactly like eating. the talk at the party is a continuou s barrage of horror stories. rose to a man and simply ate me with its eyes. if Bertha doesn t.d offer visionary flowers. Art itself gives expression to the violence: they talk about the poem about a girl who was violated by a beggar without a nose. is shown as vulnerable to the questionable ethics of Visionary Flowers: Another Study of Katherine Mansfield s Bliss . Finally the story shows that these potential relationships are corrupted and thw arted by the character of human interaction in the world.

Traces of Her Self in Katherine Mansfield s The Bliss Since the death of Katherine Mansfield more than fifty years ago. It is clear she is caught up in the force which Bert ha imagines as blind and smiling when she imagines desire. almost in the presence of her husband. The question with which Bertha ends the story is n ot unhopeful. But it does look forward to the future. whi ch can be glimpsed but not realized.relationships between men and women. cert ainly an admittal of powerlessness at this final moment. Her Oh what is going to happen now? is certainly resigned. If only as a corrective. What she has done is to write a somber story about the potential for love and beauty in human relationships. For it seems she will be eaten. It a cknowledges her losses. and hardly out of her twenties critics could scarcely be blamed for accentuating the sorrow a nd the pity of her end and for seeking in her stories clues to the real Mansfield not available in the scat tered biographical writings of friends and relatives. perhaps the time has come to put Katherine Mansfield ba ck into her stories. Katherine Mansfield. Certainly. spring 1980. in Harry s terms. Vol. Her blindness is subtly expressed. the image is ambiguous a nd even terrible. Along with the Giaconda smile. they must be rivals. Visionary Flowers: Another Study of Katherine Mansfield s Bliss Studies in Short Fiction. In these circumstances. a woman like Bertha. The s hort stories lent themselves admirably to sensitive interpretation according to the rules of the N ew Criticism and became. then. nor has she written a satire of the pretensions to art of a group of Philistines . after all. H. Though her own attitude toward autobiography in art is ostensibly ambivalent as I shall t ry to demonstrate later there is no doubt that she joins D. do make her the heroine of the story.17. of a sudden consumptive attack. has not written a satire of a foolish woman who overv alues her life s happiness. indeed. pp. The only person who seems to have responded to the ideal Pearl is Bertha. Shocked by the romantic aura of her early demise in France. cannot realize it. In the United States. 2. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley among others in para i . It propels her forward into the life she must lead. and her desire to s hare the vision. No. no less. the kind of at tention her short stories have received has followed an understandably meandering path. She has been questioning all day. Sylvia Berkman s serious examination of Mansfield s writings marked the beginning of a new and scholarly approach to Mansfield s fiction. she is described a s one who lived by listening rather than seeing. 141 47. Yet her openness to bliss and the potential in life. and in the ir world. Source: Marilyn Zorn. one of the staples of almost all anthologies of the 1950s and afterward. condemned to inarticulateness by her f emale language.

And the essential Joh n Middleton Murry. Laurie. Traces of Her Self in Katherine Mansfield s The Bliss . The Burnell family. the coachman. Mansfield s husband. but I want merely to indicate the extent of the practice by of fering and following up one or two examples. as woman. the Sheridan family. complete with sheep. and siblings as a memorial to her beloved. parents.ding those she knew in real life through the pages of her fiction and no one more consistently than herself. Numer ous additional parallels might have been traced. grandmother. mists. It may be instructive to look once again at a frequently discussed short story o f Katherine Mansfield called Bliss to demonstrate. is more thoroughly encapsulated in the few pages of Mansfield s The Man without a Temperament than in the hundreds of pages of his own autobiography. even when they take on the independent life of fictional characters. Her despair at the death of her brother Chum mie during the First World War gave way to her expressed determination to re-create his and her New Z ealand existence. and as emotional and intellectual entity plays a role in the story. all are firmly based i n autobiography. the significant ways in which the author as human being. O ne need look no further than her letters and her Journal for evidence that her acquaintances and her relative s furnished materials out of which her fictional people developed. if possible. as wife. Laura.

a fashionable thirty-year-old wife and mother. . From this point on. of eating and drinking. coffee and cigarettes in the drawing room. and the like. the story depends heavily upon the im agery of food. It is a day for other discoveries.This short story. and she se es Mrs. This same guest i s imagined by Bertha as having made that yellow silk dress out of scraped banana skins. chewing. and Bertha s culminating epiphany of her betrayal by Pearl and her own husband. the episode of the pear tree and the moon in the garden. indigestion. or perh aps to kidney disease. biting. in short. as she discovers her husband s infidelity in the suddenly grasped relationship between Harry and Bertha s special friend. Norman Knight complains that the bourgeois passengers on the train ate her with their eyes and then goes on to characterize the episode as too absolutely creamy. The reader is told gratuitously that the Youngs new cook makes the most supe rb omelettes. that Bertha s relationship to her own child is less firm than the child s ties to her nurse. Katherine Mansfield defines the feeling of absolute bliss at has taken possession of Bertha momentarily in these terms: as though you d suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun. or them with her. Bliss intrudes such allusions at every turn. swa llowing. From afternoon to late evening. The remainder of the story centers on the dinner par ty. On the first page of Bliss. Harry s infatuation with Pearl Fulton is disguised t hrough his ability to talk about food and to glory in a shameless passion for the white flesh of the lobster nd the green of pistachio ices green and cold like the eyelids of Egyptian dancers. Bertha s first duty upon entering her home is to arrange the fruit tastefully. tha t Bertha s position as hostess to a bizarre group of bohemian pseudo-intellectuals does not qualify her to enter i nto communion with them. Knight s earrings as little dangling nuts. and on other suggestions of oral satisfaction like smoking cigaret tes. offers the reader one day in t he life of Bertha Young. too: that Bertha s mystical relationship cannot be rega ined. drinking. a simple task engendering an emotional reaction in her that verges on the hysterical. the conversation at table. Her next encounter is a muted struggle with Nanny over the right to feed her own child the evening meal. that Bertha s plunge from innocence to awareness will aff ect her future existence in every regard. a predi lection that recalls to the reader a reference on the same page to the heavy eyelids of Pearl Fulton. or pure flatulence. the alimentary canal. Pearl s aloof smile is jokingly attributed by Harry to a frozen liver. the guests. Pearl Fulton. Mrs. completed by Mansfield in 1918. the graph of her emotions moves from the heights of joyous exhilaration (bliss) to the depths of despair. Even when the plot does not require allusions to digestion.

Most obviously, during the dinner itself, all the arty chit-chat centers on the imagery of eating. A play by Michael Oat is entitled Love in False Teeth. The playwright s newest effort is giv en as Stomach Trouble. And as they dine, their spoons rising and falling dabbing their lips with the ir napkins, crumbling bread, fiddling with the forks and glasses and talking, Pearl fingers a tangerine, Mrs. Knight tucks something down the front of her bodice as if she kept a tiny, secret hoard of nuts there, too, and the group hears of a fried-fish scheme of interior decoration, chairs shaped like fryi ng pans and lovely chip potatoes embroidered all over the curtains. A call for new writers to desert the romantic for the realistic is put in terms of the necessity to vomit in contemporary literature: Th e trouble with our young writing men is that they are still too romantic. You can t put out to sea without being seasick and wanting a basin. Well, why won t they have the courage of those basins? Literary allusions ste eped in the imagery of food end with mention of two poems: Table d Hôte and Why Must it Always be Tomato Soup (sic). I have discussed elsewhere the internal aesthetic relevance and artistic appropr iateness of such imagery to this short story. My intention here is quite different. It is to demonstrate that the abundance of such imagery in Bliss is entirely consistent with Katherine Mansfield s own patterns of thought and fe eling, not at all merely a device for literary exploitation. Mansfield sums it up in a particularly meaningful letter to her husband, John Mi ddleton Murry: Traces of Her Self in Katherine Mansfield s The Bliss

Darling, this is just a note, sent with the letters. Eat all that extra ration o f meat eat all [italics Mansfield s] you can as I do. God! this darling boat swinging lazy with the tide. Give Fergusson my love. . . . Tell me as soon as you know about your holiday and try and eat fruit while the warm weather lasts and remember what you are to me. It s no joke. My love seems all to be expressed in terms of food [italics mine]. This letter, dated May 22, 1918, was written just three months after Mansfield c ompleted the short story Bliss. Murry, in his autobiography, quotes another letter from Katherine Mansfield i n which she first expresses her overwhelming love for him and her happy anticipation of his arriva l: What drowsy bliss slept in my breast! She continues, I thought of what I would have ready for you, but she sub stitutes for amorous embraces a more explicit and less emotionally charged menu soup and perhaps fish, coffee, toast (because charbon de bois, which is much cheaper than coal, makes lovely toast, I hear), a pot of confitures, a vase of roses . . . [ellipses Murry s]. While it is perhaps natural for one in love to wish to offer food and drink to t he beloved, a rather more specialized perversity allows the loved one to become the food itself, as Bertha is transformed into a fruit and Pearl into lobster and ices. Thus, in a letter to Murry written only a few days before Bliss was completed, Mansfield makes the imaginative leap: 1:15. Well. I wish you had eaten my tournedos; it was such a good un. The great t hing here is the meat, which is superb. Oh, but now I am turned toward home everything is good. I eat you. I see you. . . . I d die without you. Hang there like fruit, my soul, till the tree die! The tree would die. Though I shall resist developing it at this point, the emerging scenario and its relevance to Bliss, certainly seems clear enough: the loving wife s desire to share her food with her absent husband, the transformation of the husband into the meat which the wife will enjoy, and the i nvocation by the wife of her own soul, seen as the fruit of a fruit tree which would die if the husband deser ted the wife. During the ten days that followed the posting of this letter, Mansfield would be composing her short story. She would also be writing Murry to complain of the alldevouring solicitude of her long-time friend and companion, Ida Baker, whose tangled relationship to Mansfield and Murry recalls distortedly the triang le in Bliss : It s no good looking cross because I love you [she imagines Ida Baker saying to her], my angel, from the little tip of that cross eyebrow to the all of you. When am I going to brush your hair again? I shut my teeth and say Never! but I really do feel that if she could she d EAT me.

I shall resist also turning this article into a catalogue of Mansfield s allusions to food in so many of her private writings. In fantasy, she visualizes her reunion with her husband as a c ommunion at table: Ah, Love, Love, when I come back we shall be so happy. The very cups and saucers will have wings, and you will cut me the only piece of bread and jam in the world, and I will pour you ou t a cup of my tea. In the same letter, she sees Ida Baker as a ghoul demanding desperately to overpower with a ttentions a weaker person more or less delivered up to her. As long as I am to be massaged she s an angel, for then c est elle qui manage. When rebuffed in her charity, however, Ida Baker is all hungry fury. Mansfield recalls how Ida ate me before my eyes, and I really revolted. Summing it u p, she decides, in appropriate imagery, that Her passion for me feeds on my hate and that is what I can t tomach. Significantly, the two persons to whom Katherine Mansfield felt closest in her a dult life, Ida Baker and John Middleton Murry, she imagines as eating her or being eaten by her and sometimes as involved in a combination of both processes. Consuming and being consumed in human interaction, in love, in sex, in hate blurs the distinction between the consumer and the consumed. We are what we e at, nutrition editors tell us, but Mansfield invested the idea with symbolic overtones that go far beyond t he scientific. Traces of Her Self in Katherine Mansfield s The Bliss

impossible as a threesome. But this grievance is coupled w ith distress that she and Murry have no marital privacy while Ida shares their married life. I am two selves one my tr ue self the other that she creates in me to destroy my true self. Her complaint to Murry about their marriage is first of a l ack of ardor: You never once held me in your arms and called me your wife.Eventually. who has all his work cut out to enter the names and hand the keys to the wilful guests. I am jealous jea lous of our privacy just like an eagle. Years later.cation with her also: She had got to the pitch of looking after me when she gave me a handkerchief without my asking for it. on the other. no one would believe it. So tangled does the thre d of the multiple relationship become that Mansfield actually imagines herself married to Ida. revealing to Murry that he matters more and more to her now that I am not so identified with you g in the same letter Ida s past identifi. Bertha. True to oneself! which self? Which of my many well really. How I should beat her if I were married to her! It s an awful thought. weeks before her own death. difficult to separate into viable couples: Katherine and Ida. and to the strange relationship among the p rincipals. Married for some years. our hate had got to such a pitch that I couldn t take a plate from her hand without shuddering. it followed as the night the day that if one was true to oneself . To Murry. These reflections lead us back to Bliss. If I felt that you and she discussed me even for my ow n good I d . that s what it looks like coming to-hundre ds of selves? For what with complexes and repressions and reactions and vibrations and reflections. on the one hand. Murry found it difficult to reconcile affection r and dependence upon Ida with Mansfield s passionate hatred of her. This awful relationship living on in its secret corrupt way beside m y relationship with you is very extraordinary. . Mansfield discovers that her role of dependence upon Ida Baker and M urry has been instrumental in forging an unacceptable bond among the three. Yet their association as pals rather than true lovers reveals ei ther a flaw in their and r . . she was still trying to sort out her ma ny selves. . . in monogymous society. . . They have become an unhealthy t rinity. male and female. Katherine Mansfield s Journal neatly sums up her view that the self is manifold: Of course. Bertha and Harry typify the convention al pair. dash myself on the rocks below. She was me [italics Mansfie ld s]. Harry. Katherine and Murry. Mansfield confides: . Many years later. and Pearl. there are moments when I feel I am nothing but the small clerk of some hotel wit hout a proprietor.

just as I am a part of you. . . I am you as well as myself. Yes. but that s a process. is expressed in the concern of the lover regarding the food taken by the beloved: . Indeed. Perhaps it reveals bo th. . separate. I would suggest that the Bertha-Harry.marriage or a larger imperfection in contemporary society. I am not one but two. We had bouillabaisse. Mansfield elevates to a principle her idea of the relationship between lovers. as I have quoted abov e. Yes.Pearl. By love serve ye one another . We are . she says. . Mansfield feels herself invaded and violated by Ida Baker I am two selves one my true self the other that she cr eates in me to destroy my true self. But what concerns the reader of the story is the specific relationship among the three characters. incidentally. . But. . later on in her Journal. distinct and yet making one. he and I. That Mansfield considered herself to be almost myst ically part of Murry is evident from numerous allusions in her private writings. the two sides of the medal. (And this love. . he chooses me to expand the female in him. different beyond the dream of difference. Bertha. Being made whole. . Pearl-Harry combinations c omprise one ever. Traces of Her Self in Katherine Mansfield s The Bliss . I wondered what you had. You are another part of me. I choose the male who will develop and expand the male in me.shifting personality unit and that sanction for this view may be found not only in the st ory but in Mansfield s autobiographical references. are yet an organic whole. Mysterious fitness of our relationship! . . neither male nor femal compound of both. We are.

jade beads. She can have total confidence in the fidelity of Murry in one letter and be sure that he is unfaithful in the next. its shadow. if the man and woman. In a story which boasts a gray cat and a black cat. it is quite possible that Bertha-Harry-Pearl. she does not yet realize that the shared object is Pearl who . Pearl Fulton is Bertha s acknowledged find. Katherine Mansfield tells Murry in a letter of 1920. She can even be a tree. the innocent and virginal type represented by Bertha. with no need to speak aloud. and other civilized mechanical arrangements. Do you fe el like that about things? . She can be part of Murry voluntarily. part of Ida Baker by violation of personality. so that th e reader finds it difficult to decide whether he is dealing with one or two cats. ? And I felt as though one receive accepted absorbed the beauty of the leaves even into one s physical being. I pr opose that in the Betha-Pearl combination Harry is really dealing with two aspects of one personal ity with two faces of Eve. Ha rry is formally married to one of these green and white women. Pearl with the green of pistachio ices and the white meat of the lobs ter. is not his wife at the mom ent but Pearl. and suddenly I became conscious of them of the amazing freedom with which they were drawn of the life in each curve but not as something outside oneself. And further. alternately warm and cold. I was looking at some leaves only yesterday . according to Mansfield. loathing the next. ironically. His find. . the implications of Harry s situation are not obscure. She can feel deep affection for her female companion at one moment. For Mansfield does reject in her life the constraints of reality by which most human beings live. And when Bertha imagines how she and Harry will communicate in bed that night. how s he will tell him what she and he have shared. . attracting and repellin g. Both women are associated with the colors green and white. . Bertha with a white dress.In Bliss. at parting. sharing each other. legal separation. and green shoes and stockings the colors of the pear tree in bloom. Everything has its shadow. She is the only one with whom B can communicate completely and without the need of speaking. as Bertha is in Bliss : I wonder if you [Murry] would feed on this visible world as I do. neither fully male nor fully female. but as part of one as though like a magician I could pu t forth my hand and shake a green branch into my fingers from . and the moon-like Pearl wh ose charms belong to everyone. . divorce. form a unitary trio indissoluble in nature rather than a human triangle subject to marriage. if she and Murry are not two but one. will also exchange messages with Harry silently. are really a n organic whole. consuming and being consumed by each other.

. From that night on we have been fused in soul. it is the creation of our o ne being. we became o ne being. The Heron is more than the symbol of our love. Don t think I m mystical if I explain it like this. I am perfectly aware that if I were to say this to a nybody else but you. Murry expresses their oneness even more c learly and with real certainty. they would think me raving. he says: It s no use talking about these identities of ours. w ould not have had the sensitivity to be aware of such rarefied matters). Thus in the world inhabited by Mansfield and Murry (and the ever immanent Ida Ba ker) human identities can and do merge. In a letter to Mansfield quoted in his autobiography. The night when we discovered the Heron together [their dream house]. . so that our correspondences now seem t o me the most natural and inevitable thing in the world. I have not the slightest doubt (seriously) that we are manifestations of the same being. . Now. . and eve n the moon can acquire human Traces of Her Self in Katherine Mansfield s The Bliss . people can absorb the characteristics of plants and trees. Murry adds thoughtfully.It is clear that Murry did feel like that (though Harry. his fictional shadow. But to me it is simple truth in exactly the same way as 2 + 2 = 4. . .

Katherine Mansfield had confided a year before the wri ting of Bliss : . To Lady Ottoline Morrell. It might be so wonderful. demonstrating their applicability to Bliss would have little more than a s tatistical corroborative effect. A kind of. musically speaking. . her great fear of abandonment. who is going to write about that flower garden. her realization. o There seems little doubt that these outlines eventually were fleshed out to acco mmodate the governing principle of Bliss and maybe to give form to The Garden Party and one or two other st es. These details are already public and accessible. and even of the gray cat and the black cat. I have refrained from drawing parallels that are there to be drawn between Mansfield s autobiograph ical writings and the associations suggested in her short story: her flirtation from time to time with lesbianism. . is matched by the creation and literary accentuation of pairs throughout the story: of masculine H arry and effeminate Eddie as stalkers of Pearl Fulton. An d I see B . quickly perceived that the faithful rendering of such details fell far short of basic artistic nec essity. . though she knew the immense value of autobiographical materials i n fiction. But it s full of possibilities. Perhaps that s not fair. . as in the poem by Mansfield in which the question is asked: Is the moon a virgin or is she a harlot? Asked somebody. she . I must have a fling at it as soon as I have time. that Murry was intereste d in other women because his own wife was unable to satisfy his emotional and other needs. I have deliberately avoided a detailed. whether justified or not. there is no need to pursue the question. The pairs f people must be very different and there must be a slight touch of enchantment some of them seeming so extraordinarily odd and separate from the flowers. who hasn t the remotest idea of getting them into harmony. For Mansfield. Nobody would tell. The relation of Bertha and Pearl. At the same time. do you know how I mean? There would be people walking in the garden several pairs of people the ir conversation their slow pacing their glances as they pass one another. . fact-byfact biographical approach to Man sfield s Bliss for I believe that conclusions drawn from such a study would not be particularly meani ngful here. a mystically hybrid fruit of the single pear t ree (pair tree?). its shadow. of Face and Mug as indistinguishable halves of a marri ed couple.attributes. moreover. out in the garden. . but others quite relat ed and at ease. where virginal matron and harlot meet as Bertha-Pearl. . conversation set to flowers . In Bliss.

During the last few years of her short life. Mansfield had written: I sympathise more than I can say with your desire to escape from autobiography. To Hugh Walpole. I think there is a very profound di stinction between any kind of confession and creative work not that that rules out the firs t by any means. I don t mean that superficially. Traces of Her Self in Katherine Mansfield s The Bliss .recognized that the cathartic value of such verisimilitude to the writer was ess entially limited. Don t you feel that what English writers lack today is experience of Life. Like Joyce and Gide perhaps like all artists of distinction she saw early that autobiography in fic tion was merely the jumping-off place for the creation of meaningful art. But they are self-imprisoned. she engaged in an intensely personal attempt to eradicate the personal element in life and art so that what transcended the personal and individual would shine forth as continuing and permanent.

Three days later. single. we live for. Jo yce had said. . which.700. autumn. disentangled. It s no long er our personal past. . our servant. which passed in 1971. is so to arrange the details of the autobiographi cal past that the precious kernel of selfhood is separated from the chaff of vital statistics of a life that. Like in the United States. . . divorce could be obtained by either party without grounds. Der Mensch muss frei sein free. Is it n ot possible that the rage for confession. Th is legislation allowed a woman to divorce her husband without having to prove cruelty or desertion in add ition to adultery. . Today: With the advent of the Divorce Reform Act. especially for memories of earliest childhood. . Now I feel just the contrary. The idea for the artist. flowering for our mome nt upon the earth. from ab out 600 to 1. then. Vol. No. the light discovers it and shakes the flower free and we are alive we are flowering for our moment upon the earth? This is the moment which. 1978. to live by. During the same year. untouched by all we acquire and all we shed. autobiography. she writes to Murry that we only live by somehow absorbing the p ast changing it. Then. to absorb her past. it s just in the highest possible sense. . the number of divorces in Britain tripled. I mean really examining it and dividing what is important from what is not (for there I S waste) and transforming it so that it becomes part of the life of the spirit and we are free of it. Mansfield wrote: . and to be alive . one day. like the pear tree which. . . the true Self emerges from the welter of information regarding the past life of the self. thrusts a scaled bud through years of darkness unt il. 413 22. after all. The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1923 made it easier for a wife to obtain a divorce. is explained by our persistent yet mysterious belief in a self which is continuous and permanent. . 24. in short. as the story ends. In the particular. there are signs that we are intent as never before on trying to puzzle out . Perhaps Bertha Young grows older in Bliss because she is at the end able to separate the details of her household tragedy. lies the universal. I used t o think this process was fairly unconscious. 3. Source: Marvin Magalaner. the momen t of direct feeling when we are most ourselves and least personal. Traces of Her Self in Katherine Mansfield s Bliss ion Studies. in an aside. she adds. our own particular self. divorce is common in mo in Modern . Bliss: Compare and Contrast 1920s: Between 1910 and 1920. is as lovely as ever and as still. pp. pushes a green spear through the dead leaves and through the mould.

Yet it was not until 1928. with the passage of the Representation of the P eople Act. The most powerful of these women was Margaret Thatcher. Today: Approximately two-thirds of British people own their own homes. Owner-occ upied homes are the most prevalent form of housing.dernday Great Britain. that women were given equal rights in terms of voting. 1920s: About ten percent of British people own their own homes. as part of the Franchise Act. British women over the age of twen ty-eight had the right to vote. 1920s: By 1918. Bliss: Compare and Contrast . who served as the country s prime m inister from 1979 to 1990. Today: For a few decades. several women have held important political positions in Great Britain.

a short story by Ann Beattie. Edith Wharton s short story Roman Fever loring a pivotal moment in a woman s life. an upper-class Londoner. (1934) challenges Victorian morality while exp F. women make up about thirty percent of the British workforce. Based on this story.1920s: At the beginning of the decade. A Handful of Dust (1934). Today: Women make up more than 44 percent of the British workforce. ompare Mansfield s use of satire and imagery in the stories. what are your perceptions of the scene and the people who populated this segment of society? Bliss: What Do I Read Next? Like Bliss. Kobler wrote. Then mod explores the consequences of ad Virginia Woolf s Mrs. as well as her presentation of characters and relationships. Ellen Glasgow s 1923 story The Difference y when a Victorian woman learns of her husband s affair. Locate and read one of these ern poems and plays of the early 1920s. How does this poem or play relate to the the mes of Mansfield s story? Does it add to your understanding of that era? In what way? J. This novel reveals the new morals and cynical attitude of y ounger Americans. Which story do you think is more successful? Why? In Bliss. Write a paragraph describing your initial reactions after reading Bliss for the first time. Bliss: Bibliography and Further Reading Sources . F. Dalloway (1925) chronicles one day in the life of Clarissa D alloway. A first-time reader of a Mansfield story may have similar feel ings of bliss while experiencing the story and may well not understand their source. Evelyn Waugh s satirical novel. Weekend (1978). such as Marriage à la Mode. examines the complex nat ure of contemporary morality. explores the relationship between a hu sband and wife after the husband s numerous affairs. Mansfield mentions several poems and plays. Scott Fitzgerald s This Side of Paradise (1920) explores the Jazz Age generatio n that emerged in the United States 1920s. This number drops as Britain undergoes an economic crisis later in the decade. Mansfield drew on her intimate knowledge of the bohemian London art scene to wri te Bliss. Bliss: Topics for Further Study Read another of Katherine s Mansfield s London stories.

p. Review of The Garden Party. 192 2. Conrad. Bliss: Topics for Further Study . 210 . Cowly. pp. Freeman. 230 32.Aiken. Malcolm. Review of Bliss. and Other Stories. 1921. August. and Other Stories. May 11. Dial.

Knopf. 1921. Austral ia: Penguin Books. Village Voice Literary Supplement. including numerous photographs and the major shor t stories. Selections. Katherine. CT: Yale Univ ersity Press. Boston: G. Bliss: Bibliography and Further Reading . A thematic and stylistic analysis of Mansfield s stories. 67. Katherine. 1921. Sexy Life of Katherine Mansfield. Hanson. Mansfield. p. Hopewell. and Other Stories. An overview of Mansfield s life. J. Hall & Co. Gillian. including essays and book reviews. The Journal of Katherine Mansfield. Body English: The Short. Magalaner. New York: Twayne Publish ers. K. 1988. p. Tomalin. 27. The Fiction of Katherine Mansfield. Martin s Press. Katherine Mansfield. Katherine Mansfield. New York: Alfred A. New York: St. New Haven. edited by Clare Hanson. 1971.. Sylvia. Victoria.. December 16. Katherine Mansfield. F. 1994. Kobler. Carbondale and Edwardsvil le. Times Literary Supplement. A Critical Study.. Martin s Press . Selected Letters of Katherine Mansfield. Oxford: Clar endon Press. January 21. edited by John Middlet on Murry. Boddy. Katherine Mansfield. 1983. 1920 . Katherine Mansfield: The Woman and the Writer. The .Dieckmann. Marvin. p. Review of Bliss. 1981. edited by Vincent O Sullivan. New York: St. 83. Mansfield s non-fiction writing. IL: Southern Illinois University Press. 1989. An overview of Mansfield s writings. Selections from Mansfield s journals edited by her husband. Selected letters written by Mansfield. Daly. Claire. 1988. and Other Stories. 1988. p. Review of Bliss. and Andrew Gurr. . Saralyn R. 1951. Review of Bliss. Further Reading Berkman. NJ: Ecco Press. 1987. Athenaeum. A biography of Mansfield. Claire. Revised Edition. Critical Writings of Katherine Mansfield. Spectator. and Other Stories. Katherine Mansfield: A Study of the Short Fiction. 1990. May. 855. A Secret Life. January 15.

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