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Discuss the idea of innocence and experience in Mansfield's work

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Discuss the idea of innocence and experience in Mansfield's work. The ideas of innocence and experience are frequent themes that come up in Mansfield's stories. These ideas often come across in themes such as loss of sexual innocence - 'The Little Governess'; loss of innocence through awareness of mortality and death - 'The Garden Party', 'Her First Ball'. Themes of aging and gaining of experience as time passes are also suggested. The woman in 'The Woman at the Store', we can that she has already lost her innocence, whereas in the other stories we see the point where characters have lost their innocence. 'The Little Governess' is about a young, inexperienced and vulnerable woman who gets sexually exploited in a "world full of old men with twitching knees". Connotations of the title already suggest that she is a na�ve girl with no experience. She is described as the "little" governess - suggesting she is a na�ve, innocent, vulnerable girl who is diminutive with no experience. Also, people that became governesses in those times were usually bright but inexperienced middle class women. The typical language she uses sets up her innocence and naivety. ...read more.


This theme of innocence vs. experience is brought up when Leila is made aware of the restrictions and predictability of her life as a woman, as the Fat man says "these pretty arms will have turned into little short fat ones, and you'll beat time with a different sort of fan, a black bony one... your heart will ache, ache." Repetition is used to emphasize the fixed, functional life of marriage. Awareness of mortality, death and aging is brought up "black, bony one", "You will face death". We can see that Leila is innocent, and just beginning to open up to the world, whereas the man has already been through a lot and has a lot of life experience. Leila is described as "little", just like in 'The Little Governess'. It has the same connotations - Leila is childish, girly, na�ve, innocent. The idea that life is dulled by time and experience, while the new generation is still fresh and full of life and vitality is suggested, "that's what it is too be old". 'The Garden Party' also brings up the idea of experience through awareness of mortality/death. This story is about a family who is going to hold a garden party even when a death occurred right next to their house. ...read more.


When Laura's mother sends her with a basket of "scraps" and insists that she "take the arum lilies too", because, "People of that class are so impressed by arum lilies", as well as her daughter's comment, "You won't bring a drunken workman back to life by being sentimental", we begin to realise just how far the prejudiced comments of class distinctions have separated the Sheridan family from reality. Laura's unusual reaction to the body suggests she may be envious of him, as he no longer has to worry about anything "What did garden parties...matter to him? He was far from all those things". It may also suggest her childish inability to accept the finality of death and wants to view it as sleep "sleeping so soundly". At this point, Laura has a partial realisation of death's seriousness. She sees the reality of death, but is unsure of what to do with her new knowledge. The ideas of innocence and experience are reoccurring themes throughout Mansfield's stories. We come to realize that human emotion and experience is universal, regardless of class distinction. We cannot escape death due to our mortality, thus we must all accept it. Everyone grows to become more experienced over time even though Mansfield sees the loss of innocence and the gain of new experience as a negative process. May Lam Essay/Discuss idea of innocence and experience in Mansfield's Work ...read more.

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