A Study of Katherine Mansfield's Bliss

2837 WordsMay 3, 200712 Pages
Katherine Mansfield's story, "Bliss," is about sex. Yet, because Bertha's sexuality does not manifest itself in an immediate desire for a heterosexual sexual encounter it is difficult to determine how sexuality figures in the story. The presentation of sexuality in Mansfield's stories is so unique that most critics contributing to Jan Pilditch's The Critical Response to Katherine Mansfield do not realize how deeply sexuality figures in the stories and do not refer to it in their analyses. Cherry Hankin theorizes that Mansfield's stories are about the psychological impact on a character when fantasy and reality conflict, yet she never defines fantasy as sexual, and feels the fantasy, in "Bliss" that is destroyed is that Bertha and Pearl are…show more content…
…The dim leafy cone swelled and diminished, its fine top thinning into an extremity of pure sky. Gracie knew of the leaves, of the pencil-thin peak and of the void beyond, but she gazed at the trunk of the tree, at its perfect smoothness and roundness and she felt a shudder of urgency pin her to the earth as if an arrow from directly above her had passed through her body and her feet and pierced the earth below with a long thin electrical thrill. …She thought, I must walk to the tree, and in doing so I shall make a vow which will dedicate me and alter my whole life, so that I will be given and will never belong to myself again ever. …She began to take off her clothes, her dress fell from her. She stood there white and light as a boy, compact and dense, an arrow, a flame… (344-345). Gracie does not actually prostrate herself as Constantia does, but she feels as if she has been prostrated, and she kneels and hugs the tree. Also, both writers use the sea as a place that lures girls into solitariness and sexual feeling: Constantia remembers her solitary girlhood communions with the sea. The passage by Murdoch is more similar to Bertha's sexual experience in "Bliss." Both contain images of fire. Bertha's feeling is described as if "you'd suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afteroon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of

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