Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Much influenced by the short-story writing of Anton Chekhov, Mansfield wrote stories that are psychologically accurate and convincing. She understood life’s ironies and the small personal tragedies that accompany them. She had a substantial grasp of the social milieu in which she and many other artists lived during the first quarter of the twentieth century in England.

This story is particularly strong in its use of physical detail, especially toward the beginning when William is in the first-class smoking compartment of the train departing for what he hopes will be a relaxing weekend with his family. He takes work with him, expecting to get it done in the relative quiet of his home. Mansfield depicts in considerable detail William’s leaving London. A red-faced girl runs along beside the train carriages, waving and calling desperately. A greasy workman at the end of the platform smiles as the train passes him.

William settles in, thinking to himself that it is a filthy life. He needs the spiritual cleansing that the raindrops from the rose petals once gave him. William has grown up. He is no longer a boy, but rather a father and husband, a man with responsibilities that have stripped him of the romance in his life.

Mansfield skillfully juxtaposes William to Isabel’s friends, irresponsible spongers who have preserved the romance in their lives. They are antipodal to William who, in some ways, comes off as the heavy, although not as an unsympathetic heavy. Mansfield tells the story from William’s point of view. We can only guess how Isabel feels about his weekend visits, which, after all, interrupt her social life.

Isabel and her friends are frivolous. The friends hang on while it is pleasant and profitable for them to do so. It is not Isabel who has attracted them but rather what she can offer them materially. In his letter to Isabel, William offers her the freedom to continue the shallow existence she has created for herself.