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Katherine Mansfield's Presentation of Happiness 'Bliss' and 'The Little Governess' are two short stories written by Katherine Mansfield at the time of World War 1 (1914-18)

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Introduction

Katherine Mansfield's Presentation of Happiness 'Bliss' and 'The Little Governess' are two short stories written by Katherine Mansfield at the time of World War 1 (1914-18). They were taken from the book 'Bliss And Other Stories' and both depict young woman, one single and one married, who are victims of deception. Both characters in these two stories believe themselves to be safe. In Bliss Bertha accounts her happiness to the fact that she 'doesn't have to worry about money'; she believes that being financially stable is happiness. She has 'modern, thrilling friends' but she treats them as material possessions. In this way Katherine Mansfield presents happiness as superficial. Bertha believes that having a cosy family life, and being respected in social circles promotes a sense of security. She has the protection of a good husband, and a 'satisfactory house and garden'. However, this is all self-deception, as it does not make her safe. On the contrary, her happiness blinds her, and makes her na�ve. She has no inkling of the fact that her husband is having an affair. In 'The Little Governess' she feels safe with the old man, and with this security she feels 'frightfully happy'. But her perception of happiness is different to what the reader sees. 'A flush licked the old man's cheeks; the old man's perception of her is very different to hers of him. ...read more.

Middle

She is ignorant of what to do in this situation, and she is fearful of causing a scandal. Bertha is not the one in control. Whilst she is perplexed and vulnerable, her husband is 'extravagantly cool and collected'. Though in 'Bliss' Bertha describes some things in her life as 'material' or 'superficial' happiness, (perfect house, friends husband etc.) she also feels a deep seated, unexplained impulse of happiness at the core of her being. However, there are also constricting views in society that cause her to feel anger that she cannot express fully. She cannot stand still and 'laugh at nothing- at nothing simply' for fear of being thought 'drunk and disorderly' which dents her happiness slightly. She says: 'how idiotic civilization is!' and feels that it is like a straight jacket constricting her and preventing her from experiencing her happiness more fully. Bertha cannot really let go, and tries to conceal her bliss by resorting to a more conventional prose when talking to a servant. Later she 'throws off her coat' revelling in her euphoria. Bertha's happiness seems to be completely uncontrollable, she describes it 'like a fire' and has 'fear for fanning it higher' which implies that it could lead to some kind of chaos. Bertha looks in the mirror and sees herself with 'big dark eyes', which implies her sexual excitement, as her pupils expand. ...read more.

Conclusion

She goes on to imply that the pear tree is becoming Bertha, by 'dropping in silver flowers' from her 'hair and hands'; which makes this happiness seem like 'blissful treasure' dropping heavily from Bertha. The last line of 'Bliss' again returns to this image of the pear tree, and describes it as 'just as lovely as ever'; which seems a revelation, that with Pearl Fulton, Harry and Bertha's lives being entangled and confused, the tree still remains. Bertha's life is shattered but the tree is still there, the same as ever. Katherine Mansfield also uses slightly unexpected verbs like 'the blush licked the old man's cheek' (from 'The Little Governess'), in order to let the reader have a small insight into what the characters true agendas' really are. She also uses the Pathetic Fallacy to reflect the character's inner happiness, as in 'The Little Governess' the 'pink clouds in the sky'. Overall Katherine Mansfield represents happiness in a number of different ways. Through material happiness in 'Bliss', to innocent and na�ve happiness in 'the Little Governess'. Through fantasising happiness in 'Pictures' to sexual or sensual oppression, and sex as happiness in 'Bliss'. Katherine Mansfield portrays happiness as not false, but as transient. In all three of her stories the character's happiness is slowly or suddenly crushed by outside interference. Bertha and the Little Governess believe that their happiness will last forever. They are both na�ve, sadly mistaken, and have to learn that perfect happiness does not exist and cannot last forever. ...read more.

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