Visual of a Women, from Katherine Mansfield’s Point of View

Obtuse, emotional, imaginative and lost are some of the characteristics Katherine Mansfield uses to portray her female characters. Even though she always goes against the current of life she never really finds herself and this insecurity she expresses in her works. In her short stories, “Miss Brill”, “The Daughters of the Late Colonel”, and “The Garden Party”, Katherine really shows how she thought of women by stating their place in society, emphasizing their personalities, and relationships with the opposite sex.

Katherine Mansfield originally known as Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp, was born on October 14, 1888, in Wellington, New Zealand, to Harold Beauchamp and Annie Burnell Dyer. Harold was a banker and Annie was a stay at home wife. Born to a wealthy and prestigious family, Mansfield was expected to grow up to marry a suitable man and live the life of a well-bred woman. However, that is not the plan Mansfield had for herself; she was very adventurous and rebellious. She grew up inspired to be a writer and was educated in London. She studied music and wrote for a school newspaper, while studying the works of early twentieth century writers.

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Mansfield was more focused in the progress of her writing than fitting into the ideal image of a woman of her society. In 1907, she began writing short stories for an Australian magazine for a short period of time. After this she returned to London and got pregnant from an affair with Garnett Trowell, a musician. Soon after, she wed George Bowden, who she had only met three weeks before and left before the wedding night was over. Mansfield wore black to her wedding in opposition to the traditional white dress. Mansfield’s mother found out about her open affairs with both men and women, she sent her to a German spa.

She did this in hopes of purifying the lifestyle and way of writing Mansfield laid claim to. In 1910, Mansfield got an STD. The following year she met John Middleton Murray, a literary editor and critic. Murray was the first roommate that Mansfield had in her flat, and he soon became her lover. Also, in that same year she published some satirical sketches of some German characters under the title, In a German Pension. In 1915 she met her brother, “Chummie,” who later died in World War I. After this event she focused her writing on New Zealand and her family. In 1918 Mansfield divorced her George Bowden, and married Murray.

That same year she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Her best work is said to come from the 1920s. The climax of her career came from her short story, “The Garden. ” Her strong-willed attitude affected many writers presuming her one such as Virginia Woolf. She spent her last years in southern Switzerland and France. There she underwent ineffective treatment which was the smelling of cow odors for several hours a day. Entirely alone in her last years, she wrote about her childhood and her origin. She finally died of a massive pulmonary hemorrhage on January 9, 1923.

Her last words were, “I love the rain, and I want the feeling of it on my face” (Jones). “Miss Brill” is a story about an elderly lady. She takes routine walks in the park on Sundays and enjoys watching the many festivities occurring. Miss Brill wears a fur pullover from a red eider. She describes the events as perfect scenery. She imagines herself to be in a play. Everything is jolly and perfect in this world until some rude teens interrupt. She immediately goes home sadden and puts her eider pullover away, and as she walks she imagines she heard it “cry. ” It was only just another trick played on her by her aging mind.

The Garden Party” is about an upper class family, the Sheridans, hosting a garden party. The mother of this family leaves her young adult children to prepare for this event. There are four kids Laura, Laurie, Jose, and Meg. While preparing, the artistic and leading Laura hears of the death of a poverty-stricken chap from the cottages just across the broad road. This disheartens Laura and she wishes to cancel the party her siblings and mother are in disagreement with her. She feels bad is if they are not being sympathetic to the now young widow and her children; she fears that they will hear all the music and bliss coming from their party.

However, the party is not canceled and is a big success. As the family has their night coffee Laura realizes that her father agreed with her after all. Her mom then makes a basket of the left over o’dourves and Laura takes it to the grieving family. As she leaves she visits the body and sees how the man is not dead just in a peaceful slumber in an unimaginable dreamland resting for eternity. She sobs at this site ignoring the reality of the class differences she only adheres to the feelings of her heart. In “The Daughters of the Late Colonel,” two sisters, Josephine and Constantia, are planning their father’s funeral.

These two young women have done nothing but devote themselves to their father their whole lives. They reminisced on how stern and cold-hearted their father was and the time their nephew came to visit. When they planned to go through the colonel, their dad’s, stuff they could not do it. They felt as if they were breaking the rules and that he would find out and punish them. They also could not come to a conclusion on who to give their dad’s hat to, who to give his hat to, or whether they should keep their maid.

The story ended with them discussing what their life was missing and acclaimed to the feeling of never thinking for themselves and making their own decisions the question was never answered. “In “Miss Brill,” the styles of the main character show that at one time she had a level of social importance. She wore a fur eider and of any time a genuine a fur accessory is a very expensive item of clothing. “Miss Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur” (Mansfield).

Although aging she never piddled with the actions of the ones below her class. She never really interacted with many people at all she was very observant. She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn’t listen, at sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute while they talked round her” (Mansfield).

In the story it stated that she had a “special seat” at the park that no else sat in (Mansfield). It was very clear she had a social standing in her society. “The Daughters of the Late Colonel,” also has an example of social existence; however, it was not high class. Josephine and Constantia are not rich. For example, What would father say when he found out? For he was bound to find out sooner or later. He always did. “Buried. You two girls had me buried! She heard his stick thumping. Oh, what would they say? What possible excuse could they make? It sounded such an appallingly heartless thing to do. Such a wicked advantage to take of a person because he happened to be helpless at the moment.

The other people seemed to treat it all as a matter of course. They were strangers; they couldn’t be expected to understand that father was the very last person for such a thing to happen to. No, the entire blame for it all would fall on her and Constantia. And the expense, she thought, stepping into the tight-buttoned cab. When she had to show him the bills. What would he say then? Mansfield) They are also not struggling in today’s society they would be classified as the middle class. They live together with their dad with only one servant, Kate. They do not have the riches such as fur, only the hand me downs they had received and the few gifts they are occasionally given.

The sisters both have only one nice dress. “Josephine thought of her dark-red slippers, which matched her dressing- gown, and of Constantia’s favourite indefinite green ones which went with hers” (Mansfield). Very aware of their social standing they openly accept it. Mansfield gives both points of view in her story “The Garden Party. There are the very wealthy Sheridans and the unnamed impoverished family of the killed chap. Representing the females in this story is the wife of the killed man and the wife and daughters of the Sheridan family.

The Sheridans live in a big house with many several servants. “Hans, move these tables into the smoking-room, and bring a sweeper to take these marks off the carpet and–one moment, Hans–” Jose loved giving orders to the servants, and they loved obeying her” (Mansfield). They hosted garden parties with bands and grand marquees. Only the ones of the highest class can afford such events. “And after all the weather was ideal.

They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it” (Mansfield). In this story there is also the lowest of the lowest class. They young man that was killed was from this class. “They were little mean dwellings painted a chocolate brown. In the garden patches there was nothing but cabbage stalks, sick hens and tomato cans. The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty-stricken. Little rags and shreds of smoke, so unlike the great silvery plumes that uncurled from the Sheridans’ chimneys” (Mansfield). I think that Mansfield emphasizes social standing for several reasons.

One because she was from a very wealthy family and that represented her. As well she does not obey the rules of courting outside of your class so she shows the all levels of society to show all what she interacts with. This is also links to the different personalities of her female characters. In “Miss Brill,” the main character Miss Brill has a very distinctive character. She is an elderly lady and very outgoing and opinionated. She has a very big imagination and very creative mind-set. Oh, how fascinating it was! How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting here, watching it all! It was like a play.

It was exactly like a play. Who could believe the sky at the back wasn’t painted? But it wasn’t till a little brown dog trotted on solemn and then slowly trotted off, like a little “theatre” dog, a little dog that had been drugged, that Miss Brill discovered what it was that made it so exciting. They were all on the stage. They weren’t only the audience, not only looking on; they were acting. Even she had a part and came every Sunday. No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there; she was part of the performance after all. (Mansfield) Another example is “The box that the fur came out of was on the bed.

She unclasped the necklet quickly; quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying” (Mansfield). She is old and has very childish and innocent thought patterns. Little children ran among them, swooping and laughing; little boys with big white silk bows under their chins, little girls, little French dolls, dressed up in velvet and lace. And sometimes a tiny staggerer came suddenly rocking into the open from under the trees, stopped, stared, as suddenly sat down “flop,” until its small high-stepping mother, like a young hen, rushed scolding to its rescue.

Sunday after Sunday, Miss Brill had often noticed–there was something funny about nearly all of them. They were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even–even cupboards! (Mansfield) In “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” there are two main characters. Here the personalities are very different and yet the same. They are different because Josephine is the oldest sister and she has a more mature thinking process.

Although she is the eldest and most mature, and also the most fearful, “Josephine took a wide swerve over to the chest of drawers, put out her hand, but quickly drew it back again. “Connie! ” she gasped, and she wheeled round and leaned with her back against the chest of drawers” (Mansfield). Although she is the eldest and most mature she is the most fearful. Where Constantia is the most immature of the two sisters. For example, A mouse,” said Constantia. “It can’t be a mouse because there aren’t any crumbs,” said Josephine. “But it doesn’t know there aren’t,” said Constantia. A spasm of pity squeezed her heart.

Poor little thing! She wished she’d left a tiny piece of biscuit on the dressing-table. It was awful to think of it not finding anything. What would it do? (Mansfield) Constantia is the most immature and also the most brave, And then she did one of those amazingly bold things that she’d done about twice before in their lives: she marched over to the wardrobe, turned the key, and took it out of the lock. Took it out of the lock and held it up to Josephine, showing Josephine by her extraordinary smile that she knew what she’d done–she’d risked deliberately father being in there among his overcoats. Mansfield)

They are the same because neither of them knows how to express what they really want to say. They have been under their dad’s order for so long they do not know how to make definite decisions without doubting themselves. Mansfield clearly shows that in this quote, “Don’t you think perhaps–” she began. But Josephine interrupted her. “I was wondering if now–” she murmured. They stopped; they waited for each other. “Go on, Con,” said Josephine. “No, no, Jug; after you,” said Constantia. “No, say what you were going to say. You began,” said Josephine. “I… I’d rather hear what you were going to say first,” said Constantia. Don’t be absurd, Con. ” “Really, Jug. ” “Connie! ” “Oh, Jug! ” A pause. Then Constantia said faintly, “I can’t say what I was going to say, Jug, because I’ve forgotten what it was… that I was going to say. “

Josephine was silent for a moment. She stared at a big cloud where the sun had been. Then she replied shortly, “I’ve forgotten too. ” In “Garden Party” there are several distinguished characters. Laura who helps decorate the for the party has a very artistic and creative personality. Her mom even said, “You’ll have to go, Laura; you’re the artistic one” (Mansfield). She is also very outgoing and considerate of others.

This is shown when she wants to stop the party in regards of the earlier accident when she explained to Jose, “And just think of what the band would sound like to that poor woman,” said Laura” (Mansfield). Jose is very short and easily irritated. A good example of this is when Laura is trying to make her understand her reason for wanting to cancel the party she says, “Oh, Laura! ” Jose began to be seriously annoyed. “If you’re going to stop a band playing every time some one has an accident, you’ll lead a very strenuous life. I’m every bit as sorry about it as you. I feel just as sympathetic. ” Her eyes hardened.

She looked at her sister just as she used to when they were little and fighting together. “You won’t bring a drunken workman back to life by being sentimental,” she said softly. (Mansfield) The widow has a very small part in this story but very important. She has a very bland and obtuse personality almost as cripple of the mind. This is shown when Laura visits her and she does not even speak with words only actions. For example, But at that moment the woman at the fire turned round. Her face, puffed up, red, with swollen eyes and swollen lips, looked terrible. She seemed as though she couldn’t understand why Laura was there.

What did it mean? Why was this stranger standing in the kitchen with a basket? What was it all about? And the poor face puckered up again. “All right, my dear,” said the other. “I’ll thenk the young lady. ” And again she began, “You’ll excuse her, miss, I’m sure,” and her face, swollen too, tried an oily smile. Mansfield gives the many different personalities to show who she was. From her life story she never has a set way of doing things. She was very abstract with her actions, and I think all the personalities represent her in the many stages of her life. I think the personality reflects the relationship with men.

In “Miss Brill” there is no male main character. As Miss Brill talks about her experiences at the park she never really mentions ever having a significant other. She does talk about the various couples in there different activities at the park, “To and fro, in front of the flower-beds and the band rotunda, the couples and groups paraded, stopped to talk, to greet, to buy a handful of flowers from the old beggar who had his tray fixed to the railings” (Mansfield). In “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” there is only one major relationship with a man. That is the relationship between the daughters and the father.

This is not a healthy relationship. The colonel orders them around and does not respect them as his children. Here this is shown, “Can’t hear,” said old Colonel Pinner. And he waved Josephine away with his stick, then pointed with his stick to Cyril. “Tell me what she’s trying to say,” he said (Mansfield). “The Garden Party” has more relationships. There is the relationship between the husband and wife of the Sheridan family. This is not really acknowledge much other than she submits to her husband when he agrees with his daughter, Laura, “It was a horrible affair all the same,” said Mr. Sheridan. The chap was married too. Lived just below in the lane, and leaves a wife and half a dozen kiddies, so they say. “

An awkward little silence fell. Mrs. Sheridan fidgeted with her cup. Really, it was very tactless of father… Suddenly she looked up. There on the table were all those sandwiches, cakes, puffs, all uneaten, all going to be wasted. She had one of her brilliant ideas. “I know,” she said. “Let’s make up a basket. (Mansfield) There is also a very minute relationship with Laura and the one of the workmen. It is nothing serious just a flirtatious moment she shares with random man.

This is shown when, Only the tall fellow was left. He bent down, pinched a sprig of lavender, put his thumb and forefinger to his nose and snuffed up the smell. When Laura saw that gesture she forgot all about the karakas in her wonder at him caring for things like that–caring for the smell of lavender. How many men that she knew would have done such a thing? Oh, how extraordinarily nice workmen were, she thought. Why couldn’t she have workmen for her friends rather than the silly boys she danced with and who came to Sunday night supper? (Mansfield)

I think this is best example ecause she as a girl had many affairs. This moment was shared with a random man that she had never met before. This reflects Mansfield’s relationship status with men very well. It is very clear that Katherine Mansfield has a very keen and distinctive value of women. This is normal because she always is who she wants to be. She does not care what people think she is going to live the life she wants to. This is very clear in her short stories “The Garden Party”, “Miss Brill”, and “The Daughters of the Late Colonel. ” The female characters in these exemplify what she thought of herself.

Yes, Katherine Mansfield’s female characters are obtuse, emotional, imaginative and sometimes lost in her stories, it does not matter because these characteristics describes what a real woman is to her.

Works Cited

  1. Jones, Kathleen. “Katherine Mansfield. ” http://www. katherinemansfield. net/life/briefbio7. htm
  2. Mansfield, Katherine. “Miss Brill. ” http://www. readbookonline. net/readOnLine/1349/
  3. Mansfield, Katherine. “The Daughters of the Late Colonel. ” http://readbookonline. net/readOnLine/1356/
  4. Mansfield, Katherine. “The Garden Party. ” http://www. readbookonline. net/readOnLine/1355/

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