Katherine Mansfield Questions and Answers

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What issues is Katherine Mansfield presenting about women in her short stories?

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The issues focused on in the short fiction of Katherine Mansfield seem to try to explore and depict the various challenges facing women in her context. In particular, the position of women in a patriarchal world is examined, as women have to operate within a man's world. Shorter stories such as "The Bay" and "The Prelude" explore how women set up the domestic sphere as "their" territory, with men feeling uncomfortable and powerless in it. In addition, stories such as "The Garden Party" and "The Doll's House" examine New Zealand society and the ubiquitous presence of class and how it impacts women of all different positions in society.

You might like to focus on the way that in some of her short stories Mansfield presents women as being weak, powerless, isolated and dependent. In particular, "Miss Brill" explores the psyche of a woman who is desperate to convince herself she is significant but at the end of the story is forced to acknowledge the emptiness of her life. Likewise, "The Little Governess" explores the position of dependency of a woman abroad the first time and thus extremely vulnerable to the abuse of an old man.

Another aspect that her fiction seems to capture is the various epiphanies experienced by women. "The Garden Party" and "Her First Ball" are good examples of this type of fiction, where Laura in the former looks upon the dead body of Mr. Scott and suddenly realises how frivolous her life is, and Leila in the latter is faced with the ephemeral nature of her beauty and youth.

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