Compare and contrast how Katherine Mansfield portrays suffering in Marriage A La Mode and Bliss.

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Katherine Mansfield presents us with the demise (end) of love in these two short stories. In "Bliss ," Bertha Young is ecstatically happy with her life as a young married mother; however, we sense her vulnerability from the outset. She is too happy, feeling that she had "swallowed a...

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Katherine Mansfield presents us with the demise (end) of love in these two short stories. In "Bliss," Bertha Young is ecstatically happy with her life as a young married mother; however, we sense her vulnerability from the outset. She is too happy, feeling that she had "swallowed a bright piece of …sun," and the discerning reader will quickly realize that this happiness won’t last, following the literary convention that a short story that starts in peace will quickly be marred. Bertha is timid, allows her baby’s nurse (nanny) to dominate her, and regrets that her baby is nurtured in "another woman’s arms." Her suffering is psychological and Mansfield shows us how brusque her husband is towards her. He is a man who "rapped" out his answer (we note the aggressive onomatopoeic verb used).  We witness Bertha’s suffering as she watches her husband’s intimate moment with another woman and all her dreams are crushed. The natural world around her remains unchanged and unmoved, which only increases the reader’s pathos for Bertha.

"Marriage a la Mode" has a similar theme of the end of love in a marriage, but this time it is the husband who suffers as his wife has new fashionable friends and interests ‘a la mode’ and has no time for him. She continually belittles him, accusing him of being "dreadfully stuffy" until he "felt a stranger" in his own house, which she fills with weekend guests. Like Bertha in "Bliss," William lacks confidence and doesn’t stand up to this "new Isabel," feeling a "dull persistent gnawing in his breast" because his wife no longer appears to love him. We feel great sympathy for the sensitive William, as we do for delicate Bertha. Like Bertha, who takes "child-like pleasure" from any praise she receives from Harry, so William is still a "little boy" to his wife. Unlike in "Bliss," however, nature offers William a retreat of sorts, and his wife shows some regret for her behavior at the end of the story. However, Mansfield ends on a cynical note, for Isabel continues "laughing in the new way."

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