What is the representation of marriage in the story "Bliss?"

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Katherine Mansfield's "Bliss," Bertha Young is portrayed as a contented, happy homemaker.  She is secure in her life with her husband, her child, a lovely home,  and preparing for a perfect dinner party.  During the party she is aware of Harry's dislike for Pearl.  Bertha is hoping that her husband will overcome this dislike, because she wants a friendship with Pearl.

"Oh, why did she feel so tender towards the whole world tonight? Everything was good - was right. All that happened seemed to fill again her brimming cup of bliss."

There is a moment where Pearl feels that Pearl and she are kindred spirits and feel the same "bliss" about their position in life. She "hopes for a signal" from Pearl.   They share a moment looking into Bertha's garden and although she is not sure, she feels that there is a connection of understanding between the two women. 

As the party ends she catches her husband and Pearl in an intimate situation and making plans to meet the next day.  Suddenly, all of Bertha's concepts of "bliss" are shattered. 

The theme of marriage and adultery are the engine that moves this story from beginning to end.  Mansfield foreshadows the blow to Bertha by indicating that even though the couple are pals they are not sexually attracted to each other.  This story is one of revelation.  Marriages are not always what they appear and those who think they have a perfectly happy marriage are often ignoring signs of discontent.