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Katherine Mansfield excels at revealing the inner thoughts of her protagonists, and their limitations and struggles. This story is no exception. In "An Ideal Family," we are shown the thoughts of old Mr. Neave, who, in spite of his obvious financial and social success in life, is now struggling against inevitable old age and feeling left behind and ignored by his family. One repeated symbol that appears in this tale is that of an old withered man:
And somewhere at the back of everything he was watching a little withered ancient man climbing up endless flights of stairs. Who was he?
This is a symbol that occurs again and again when Mr. Neave is feeling tired of life and forgotten by his wife and children. Clearly, therefore, one of the principal themes of this story is age and how we accept it, and how often this is a massive struggle, as symbolised by Mr. Neave's stubborn refusal to give over his business to his son and his insistence to walk to and from work.
Could it be that it is Mr. Neave's age what makes him so lonely, or it is also his wife and family the responsibles of his loneliness?
It seems that his wife doesn't feel like him, she doesn't seem to be a good companion of him, or it is what Mr. Neave feels.
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