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In Katherine Mansfield's impressionistic story, "Bliss," the third-person limited point of view creates a certain ambiguity leaving the readers' own imaginations to piece together the implications of Bertha's perceptions with contextual devices in order to obtain meanings. One of these contextual devices is the question asked by Mug, "Why doth the bridegroom tarry?"
Early in the story, Harry calls Bertha to tell her that he is going to be late for the dinner party, asking her to delay it for ten minutes. To this
She'd nothing to say. She only wanted to get the moment. She couldn't absurdly cry, "Hasn't it been a divine day!"
These lines act as a foreshadowing of the incongruity of Bertha's emotions and thoughts with those of her husband. Her reply of "Entendu" ["understood'] is ironic as she comprehends none of the implications of Harry's words. And yet, when she hangs up, she intuitively ponders"how much more than idiotic civilisation was."
As she dresses, however, Bertha is overcome with her "bliss" as she contemplates with impressionistic images how fortunate she is to have a lovely baby, a husband with whom she is "good pals," freedom from financial worry, books, friends, music, trips, a new cook, and "a wonderful little dressmaker." Then, as before, she ironically contemplates absurdity, "I'm absurd!" not realizing the deep truth of her exclamation. And, then, her guests arrive, Eddie and the Norman Knights, known as Face and Mug. As they await the arrival of Harry, Mug asks, "Why doth the bridegroom tarry?" a question that alludes to a passage from Matthew 25 in which the guests fall asleep because they must wait at the wedding for the groom to appear.
However, this question is most significant because it acts as foreshadowing. As it turns out, this is a question that Bertha should have asked herself, and she later becomes "absurd" for not having done so. For, she mistakenly feels connected to Pearl Fulton as they gaze at the pears on the fruit tree, pears symbolic of their womanhood that they feel together only because of their mutual love for Harry. Sadly for Bertha, at the end of an evening of mistaken bliss, an attempt to keep from herself the truth, the reality of her absurdity is revealed to her when she notices Harry's lips saying "I adore you" to the woman to whom he has earlier been curt.
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