Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 519
“Bliss” begins with Bertha, a young wealthy woman married to Harry Young, in a state of bliss. As usual, Mansfield can evoke the wonders of being alive. The spring afternoon is brilliant, the fruit has arrived for her to arrange, her lovely baby seems happy with her nanny, some sophisticated friends are coming to dinner, and her house looks beautiful. Bertha sees herself in the mirror, and she thinks that something wonderful is about to happen.
Things are not quite so nice as they seem. Once again, the details tell the story. The nanny bosses Bertha around. Bertha herself is a bit childish. Harry will be late; when he does arrive, he makes an abrasive remark. One guest, Miss Fulton, is mysterious, as are some cats prowling around in the garden. A tree, however, bodes well, a tree described with Mansfield’s customary evocativeness. Bertha sees “the lovely pear tree with its wide open blossoms as a symbol of her own life.”
The guests arrive, and Mansfield shows her ability to satirize the social world of poets and painters. One guest wears a dress that shows a procession of monkeys; married couples call each other by silly names; a languid homosexual playwright has had a bad experience with his taxi driver. Harry, Bertha’s down-to-earth husband, forms a contrast, as does the cool Miss Fulton, who arrives dressed all in silver.
Up until now, the story’s action has seemed haphazard, and the reader has been given few clues as to what may happen. Then Mansfield delivers her surprise, a series of events that may have shocked her original readers. Bertha touches Miss Fulton’s arm and feels a “fire of bliss”; a look passes between them. Through the inane dinner conversation, Bertha wonders at her experience. She waits for “a sign” from Miss Fulton with little idea of what such a sign would mean.
Its meaning soon becomes more clear. Miss Fulton seems to give a sign, and they go to the garden and gaze at the pear tree...
(The entire section contains 519 words.)
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