ON ‘THE DAUGHTERS OF THE LATE COLONEL’ AND ‘BLISS’
Here are a few generalisations, questions, speculations See if
you can pin them to details in the texts to test them.
THE DAUGHTERS OF THE LATE COLONEL
What is their financial situation is? Are they secure? Will they now be poor? Has the Colonel left a will? Does Mansfield mention financial matters? If not why not? Or, when they talk about sacking the maid and doing for themselves, is that really because they can’t afford her? Is that why they worry about the nurse’s greed over butter?
What evidence is there that the colonel bullied the girls? How much did they see of him? Did they love him?
The colonel in effect blighted their lives. When his wife died young he kept them away from suitors so that they would stay at home and look after him. Is this the ‘moral’ of the story?
They seem very babyish in their fear of touching the colonel’s things, let alone sorting them out? Is this superstition? How far is Mansfield credible here?
Why is Ceylon important?
Josephine seems older and more decisive than Constantia, but in fact this is only a matter of conversational tone. Neither can get anything done. This is because they have spent their lives being told what to do and can’t think for themselves.
What happens in the story? What is it that they have forgotten they were going to say.
The Garden Party ends with a person not being able to say, or perhaps find, what they mean. Here we have a similar ‘losing the point’. How do these story compare to An Indiscreet Journey, and Miss Brill, Je ne Parle pas Français? Something avoided?
Is this story really about her husband not getting enough rumpy-pumpy? Or it’s a Freudian scenario. She’s afraid of sex, but still needs it, so she becomes hysterical and falls in love with a fantasy of her new woman friend, and has religious feelings for a pear tree?
Mansfield is always interested in deception, and self-deception in particular. A long theme in the Western intellectual tradition (Socrates: know yourself). But what is Bertha deceiving herself about?
Is Henry really a very cunning deceiver, and has he been for some time now? Or is Pearl something new?
What are we to make of Bertha’s relationship to her child? And Henry’s?
Henry seems to be fond of Egyptian dancers with green eyelids. What do we read into that?
She says she likes her friends and being ‘modern’. Her friends, in fact, are a lot of pseuds.
“The lights will be out. And you and he will be alone together in the dark room –the warm bed. . .’
She jumped up from her chair and ran over to the piano”
It sounds as they they’ve never been alone together in bed. That can’t be so. What’s she thinking? Note Mansfield gives us only a little of her thought and then leaves it up to use to imagine.
Just before she laments her coldness, Bertha says that Henry’s ‘different’. What does that mean? Is she a tart?
How does Mansfield create the aura around Pearl Fulton? Is it a matter of exact descriptive imagery?
“’Good night, good-bye’ she cried from the top stop, feeling that this self of hers was taking leave of them for ever.” Which self?