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"What interests Mansfield most is self-deception" Discuss this proposition with close reference to two of her stories

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“What interests Mansfield most is self-deception”

Discuss this proposition with close reference to two of her stories

Self - deception seems to be the basis of both Bliss and Pictures; two short stories by Katherine Mansfield. In this essay, I intend to demonstrate how Mansfield conveys the theme of self - deception to her readers by exploring the imagery and language she uses.

The story Bliss centres around Bertha Young, a thirty year old woman who is extremely content with her life, especially her relationship with her husband Harry: “Really - really - she had everything. She was young. Harry and she were as much in love as ever, and they got on together splendidly and were really good pals.”

In Bertha’s opinion, her life is perfect. She has a baby, interesting and exciting friends and no financial worries.

The story Pictures was written during WWI and focuses on an overweight, unmarried middle aged woman - Ada Moss who, on the contrary, is extremely frustrated with her life. As a result of this, Ada Moss is failing as an actress and is left to fend for herself in a world very hostile to her.

‘Ten minutes later, a stout lady

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Ada Moss however, is not in control of her self - deception. Her behaviour is late and contrived.

“Cockroach! That’s what she is. She’s a cockroach!” Ada Moss is blaming the landlady for the failure of her acting. The word ‘cockroach’ is a childish insult which demonstrates her lack of responsibility. Ada Moss lives in a dream world to such an extent that she believes the outcome of the dream. Her childishness is also revealed when she describes the landlady as ‘pouncing’. She is adopting a childish mentality and cannot face up to the truth. If she hadn’t acted like a child and lied about the letter then she would not be in the position she is in. She is simply deluded - “the letter seemed to afford her peculiar satisfaction”. She has just been rejected yet she is satisfied. She has made the letter out to be a fantastic film contract, so fake that the idea penetrates into her mind and deceives her to believe her own lies.


Bertha Young cannot help being a victim of  deception. She has no financial hardship and no idea of reality. Her life is undemanding, she has a nanny to help the baby and is less restrictive.

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One can argue that the grey cat could symbolise Pearl Fulton and that even the Bertha Young is seen more colourful, in the end Harry goes for Pearl Fulton because she has something to offer that Bertha does not seem to possess until its too late. And if you take the L off Pearl it leaves you with Pear - and Pearl Fulton is seen to be the symbol of the pear tree.

For Ada Moss, self deception is a way of surviving, she can’t deal with the reality of the situation that she is in. she is literally holding on to life which indicates that she is in a tough choice for business - acting. Rejection is all that she knows.

In this story, you can’t help but feel sorry for Bertha Young. She has deceived herself, but unlike Ada Moss, she is in control of her self deception.

Ada Moss knows the reality of her life and chooses to suppress it and deceive the outside world with a façade.

By Farah Nanji


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