How is the stream-of-consciousness technique used in Katherine Mansfield's "Bliss"?

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The stream-of-consciousness technique as used in Katherine Mansfield's "Bliss" exists to convey Bertha's joy at being alive. As this is necessarily a subjective state, the stream-of-consciousness technique is especially appropriate because it takes us inside Bertha's mind while she's experiencing such unalloyed bliss.

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Stream-of-consciousness is a literary technique quite commonly used by modernist writers such as Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. It gives us a unique, privileged insight into the thoughts, passions, and emotions of an individual character as they surge through their consciousness.

The technique is emblematic of the subjective turn that characterizes modernism. The emphasis in modernist works of literature is no longer on the objective world, which all too often appears chaotic and fragmented, but on the subjective inner life of the individual.

That is certainly the emphasis of Katherine Mansfield in “Bliss.” She aims to articulate as best she can the succession of blissful emotional states experienced by the story's protagonist, Bertha. And she uses stream-of-consciousness to do this, taking us inside Bertha's mind as she undergoes a series of seemingly ordinary experiences—such as turning the corner of her street, or looking at a tree in the garden—that induce a profound feeling of joy.

It is the consciousness of joy rather than the objects that induce it that is Mansfield's main focus here. And so she regularly delves into the thoughts and feelings coursing through Bertha's mind to convey the profound love of life, and the renewed passion at its many joys and beauties, that she now feels.

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