Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Because Mansfield’s stories are primarily psychological, point of view is particularly important. In her journals, Mansfield makes it clear that she sees her characters from the inside out, that she assumes their identities as an actor assumes a role, while at the same time making the reader aware of the authorial judgments on them. “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” is especially complex in point of view because there are two protagonists, and Mansfield alternates between them, except for a brief passage where she penetrates the mind of Cyril. However, sometimes she treats the two sisters as a single entity, as in the first paragraph. In one of the most interesting passages, in the seventh section of the story, she gives their imaginations the same subject, the runner on his way to Benny with the watch, but then she reveals the divergent images in their minds. At the end of the story, the single point of view is thematic. If one of the sisters could have contemplated a future, there might have been hope for both; their very unanimity dooms them.

In a story such as “The Daughters of the Late Colonel,” in which there is almost no real action, slight events become symbolic, but the symbolism is used in various ways. Actions may be symbolic: The fact that Kate hands the sisters an empty jam pot indicates her domination of them; the fact that Nurse Andrews questions the taste of the marmalade shows her contempt for her former employers. Sometimes...

(The entire section is 428 words.)