Katherine Mansfield

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Write a compare and contrast essay about the internal and external conflicts of Ian and Cress. To help answer this question

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[ While Enotes educators do not compose essays, we are glad to assist with ideas as to the composition of comparison/contrast. ]

Certainly, Katherine Mansfield's short story named after a Chopin composition, "Feuille d'Album," or page [leaf] from an album, provides the reader with a slice of life story which ends incompletely just as Chopin's musical piece is just one "leaf" of composition on paper.  On the other hand, Jessamyn West's "Mr. Cornelius, I Love You" is an extract from West's longer work Cress Delahanty and is, of course, more complete.

Nevertheless, there are some similarities between the two narratives:

  • Both protagonists are young people, misjudged by others as they have an inner life unknown to others. [external conflict]

In "Feuille d'Album" as an indication that others do not understand Ian French, the opening sentence of Chopin's short story reads, "He really was an impossible person." The women try enticing him, then "rousing" him, [B]ut he did not turn a hair" because he is in love with the girl that he sees from the window, someone he idealizes, someone around whom he structures his day. 

His heart fell out of the side window of his study....She was the only person he really wanted to know.

Similarly, in "Mr. Cornelius, I Love You," taken from the larger work, Cress Delahanty, Crescent, the protagonist, secretly falls in love with the father of two of the track stars from school. Mr. Cornelius, who suffers from having had tuberculosis. Her feelings for him are also idealized as she romantically envisions herself sacrificing her life so that this man can live. After she goes into the bathroom, preparing to die for Mr. Cornelius if God will take her, Cress must return to her family life after her failure, and come to dinner. Mrs. Agnew, who has stayed for dinner, obliviously tells Cress, "Never forget, Cress, that life will not be so easy." 

  • Both protagonists perceive others through the vortex of their own youthful emotions and consciousness. [internal conflicts]

Crescent spends many young, charged moments imagining how she would care for Mr. Cornelius; further, she feels compelled to tell the man that she loves him, despite her friends' discouragement. She imagines that Mr. Cornelius can become like a phoenix and rise from his afflictions.

....every thought [of him was part of a great monologue....She suffered because ...she had put the core of her life outside its circumference.

Likewise, Ian orders his life so that he can gaze at "the only person he really wanted to know. He, too, fantasizes that the girl of the "house-opposite" is "just like him," and he pictures "himself in there with her." He pictures her in "[H]er composure, her seriousness and her loneliness." 

  • Both are convinced that they are in love [internal conflicts]

Ian rejects the women who make overtures to him because he "couldn't stand giggling girls and he had no use for grown-up women...." Likewise, Cress feels it is her mission in life to offer herself for Mr. Cornelius; furthermore, she is convinced that she must tell him that she loves him even though she is most anxious about doing so, just as Ian must follow the girl and offer her an egg.


Perhaps, because of the length of the stories, there are differences:

The characters of Cress and Ian differ in their development 

  • In Cress's story, there are two chapters in which the character of Cress is thoroughly developed and her external conflict is resolved.  

She "practices" how Mr. Cornelius may be dying. When her friends comply with her request to take her to Mr. Cornelius so that she can declare her love for him, her internal conflicts are resolved in an unexpected manner. With the arrival of Mrs. Cornelius, Cress "was enchanted all over again by the enormous blaze of being alive and searching and understanding which she saw there." She is asked why she is there, but Mrs. Cornelius laughs in understanding when Cress declares her love for Mr. Cornelius. For, she herself had been in love with her husband's father when she was young. She tells her husband it is no wonder that Cress has reminded him of his wife.

"Oh, Frank, schoolgirls willing to die for you, and you not half trying."

Believing that the love of Cress will strengthen and encourage her husband, Mrs. Cornelius invites the girl to come during the summer and read to her husband in order to keep him interested and uplifted. So, Cress's internal conflict is resolved as the exhilarated girl is released from her reveries and relieved to know that other girls, such as Mrs. Cornelius when she was young, have shared her dreams of an older man.

  • Ian's external conflict of desiring to meet the girl in the house is resolved; however, the reader is unable to determine the outcome of their meeting since it is at this point that the story ends.

Ian follows the girl one day, creeping through her door and up the stairs. When the girl finally stops, he says, "Excuse me Mademoiselle, you dropped this" and he hands her an egg, perhaps, the one she has shopped for all the day. However, it is here that the story ends, without the reader knowing whether the girl has ventured to accept it, or whether the attractive women will stop cease their overtures toward him. 

Blushing more crimson than ever, but looking at her severely he said, "Excuse me, Mademoiselle, you dropped this."

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