Katherine Mansfield And Sexuality Essay

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One of the themes that can be found in the stories of Katherine Mansfield centres upon the role, status, sexuality, and "place" of women in society. According to Chantal Cornut-Gentille d'Arcy, "Mansfield's succinct narratives … are triumphs of style, a style which challenged the conventional parameters of nineteenth-century realism, constrained to plot, sequential development, climax, and conclusion" (244). More specifically, maintains that "even though Mansfield never acknowledged any profound engagement with Freudian approaches to sexuality or psychic disorder … Mansfield moved in a context which undoubtedly indicates she was aware of Freud's ideas and discoveries" (245).

This is evident in ‘Life of Ma Parker', which describes the
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Similarly, in Mansfield's ‘Bliss', the reader is introduced to another fixed character, Bertha Young. Bertha is a 30-year old wife and mother who is a housewife embodying "the status of non-work" (248). Bertha Young is seen as planning a dinner party and, significantly, as becoming vulnerable to a series of erotic feelings which are first narcissistic, secondly, oriented toward another woman, and finally, erotically pointed at her male spouse. Thomas Dilworth states that in this story, Mansfield explores the homoerotic urge that many women feel but do not give into expressing (141). These urges are presented in the Freudian content as perfectly normal and as liberating.

However, Mansfield is seen by Dilworth as stopping before allowing her protagonist to become overly involved in these lesbian longings (142). It is no accident that Bertha Young shifts her desire from the female object, Miss Fulton, to the more legitimate object of her own husband. It is at this juncture that Mansfield makes it clear to the reader that Mr. Young and Miss Fulton are likely to be engaged in an affair of their own: as she is departing from the dinner party, he tells her she is adored and they arrange to meet "To-morrow" (Mansfield 185). For Bertha, who is clearly in the midst of a sexual awakening of some importance, this new knowledge of her husband's infidelity is undoubtedly shattering.

Dilworth says that it is extremely poignant that this knowledge should be given to
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