How does Mansfield use symbols and imagery to depict Bertha's emotional state in "Bliss"?

In “Bliss,” the primary symbol that Mansfield uses to depict Bertha's emotional state is the pear tree. Mansfield also uses nature imagery to reveal different aspects of Bertha's emotional state, including the tree, the fruit, the moon, and the garden.

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In Katherine Mansfield’s story “Bliss,” Bertha is presented as a self-absorbed upper-middle-class woman. This young wife and mother spends considerable time thinking about her own emotional state. Through the course of the story, this state moves from contentment, to bliss, and finally to distress. The author indicates that Bertha herself identifies the pear tree as an important symbol. Imagery that reveals Bertha’s emotions is related to the tree and nature, including open blossoms, the pears and other fruit, and the garden.

As Bertha prepares for the party that she and her husband, Harry, will be hosting that evening, she becomes aware that her mood is changing. In general, she has been content with her life but not particularly stimulated. As her feelings intensify, she identifies bliss as a pleasant, welcome new sensation. This epiphany arrives as she looks out from inside their house at a blooming pear tree in the garden. She identifies

the lovely pear tree with its wide open blossoms as a symbol of her own life.

After the guests arrive, Bertha again looks at the tree, this time in the company of Pearl. The open blossoms on the tree symbolize her openness to friendship with Pearl, which soon turns into sexual desire for Harry. This desire is also symbolized by a “shower of sparks.”

Images of nature appear frequently and correspond to Bertha’s varying emotions. In addition to the pears, these include other fruits, such as grapes. She visualizes the tree as reaching toward the moon, matching her intention to connect with Pearl—a name that suggests the moon’s round, white qualities. The garden itself calls to mind Eden with its temptations, and her negative reaction to the two cats foreshadows her disrupted state when she learns of Harry's affair with Pearl.

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