Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Born in New Zealand, Katherine Mansfield married English literary critic and journalist John Middleton Murry although she was a lesbian. She lived most of her life in England, where she closely associated with such literary figures as D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. Through these associations, she came to understand in considerable depth the hangers-on in the artistic and literary worlds. She also had a penetrating insight into the sham that marriage was for many of her friends and, most probably, for herself.

Although it would be inaccurate to read “Marriage à la Mode” as directly autobiographical, the story certainly depicts many elements from Mansfield’s life with Murry. In this story Mansfield is essentially concerned with the ways in which married people grow apart. Neither William nor Isabel is a terrible person; the two have simply become unsuited for each other.

This story satirizes the civilized ways the British have for dealing with unpleasantness. They remain unflaggingly polite, sidestepping unpleasantness by deferring controversy. Very little is communicated directly in this story. William and Isabel do not fight. William voices no complaints, even though he is essentially excluded from the activities of the weekend and is inconvenienced to the point that he cannot even do the work that he brought home.

His children’s absence is another disappointment, but William does not even complain about their being...

(The entire section is 533 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The story offers a portrait of a marriage self-consciously refashioned (by one partner, Isabel, with the consent of the other, William) into...

(The entire section is 113 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Marriage and Family
The theme of marriage is perhaps the most important in ‘‘Marriage á la Mode,’’ for the story raises...

(The entire section is 957 words.)