Impressionism In Katherine Mansfield’s Essay Example
Impressionism In Katherine Mansfield’s Essay Example

Impressionism In Katherine Mansfield’s Essay Example

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  • Pages: 5 (1362 words)
  • Published: August 23, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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"Impressionism is an emphasis on the process of perception and knowing, through the use of formal, linguistic and representational devices, to present more closely the texture, process or structure of knowing and perceiving. "Mansfield's short stories, "Prelude", "At the Bay", and "The Garden Party" are all vividly Impressionistic. Throughout these stories Mansfield seems to create a fractured and fragmented view point of life, while simultaneously blurring the line between her character's 'dream world', and reality.

Throughout her stories, Mansfield creates episodic scenes, an array of sensory images and a constantly variable narrative stance, all characteristic attributes of Literary Impressionism.Through "Prelude", we see Mansfield's already emerging interpretation of Literary Impressionism. Images and symbols are a crucial aspect of Prelude, for through them, Mansfield introduces the characters and their lives.


Few events of major importance occur, but the story is full of personal crisis that vividly affect each character's internal structure while leaving the atmosphere of amiable, conventional family life intact: Kezia witnesses the killing of a chicken; Kezia's unmarried and desperately timid Aunt Beryl recalls with horror leaning against her sister's husband when he was reading the paper; Linda, fearful of being swallowed by family life, imagines the wallpaper is coming alive. We enter an individual's consciousness for a few pages at a time before moving on to someone else. Mansfield substitutes from adults to children and back again, and from the family to its servants, proof of the fracturing and fragmentation that is unique to Impressionism.

Through the characters of Linda and Kezia, we see the concept of Duality and Unity. Both characters seem to exist on a dual plane, their lives essentially twofold, centered along

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the concepts of experience, solitude, alienation and most importantly, dream and reality. With the character of Linda, this concept is particularly important for we see the idea of modernism being evoked as well. Linda is characterized in scenes of high tension and drama, which triggers her unfulfilled and divided life. Linda portrays her dual character particularly around her husband, Stanley who is understood to be a burden to her existence.

We can see this when Mansfield shifts the atmosphere in both Prelude and At the Bay, when Stanley is not present. Linda retreats to her dream world to elude Stanley, provoking the concept of reality vs. dream. "Division and the quest for unity are especially apparent in Mansfield's 'dames seules,' who consistently yearn to overcome their solitude and become integrated in society, but who do not succeed in doing so.

" This idea is vivid in both short stories, when the reader is given the idea that the character of Linda was destined to be much more in her life, but is unable to do so because of Stanley. The character of Stanley seems to serve as a reminder that company in marriage does not call for a necessary unity, instead, the individuals lives seem further divided, torn by the intimacy and estrangement provoked.Metaphors are a crucial element of Mansfield's stories, and are a further aid into understanding her thought process in the stories. An example would be the aloe in Prelude, serving as a symbol for Linda's seemingly unfruitful or non flowering life. This too has a certain duality, for later on in At the Bay we learn that the aloe may also represent Linda's


This phenomenological aspect of Mansfield's writing is an apparent link to nature, which flows throughout both stories. Following this notion is the idea of the bursting wallpaper, and the vivid dreams that Linda experiences, all sensations and emotions that serve to further help the reader interpret the characters. We can see that perhaps Mansfield's female characters seek solitude in nature, a diversion from their dreary lives.Juxtaposition is important in At the Bay, for Stanley is frequently juxtaposed alongside the character of Jonathan.

His character creates tension in the plot, and indirectly influences the other characters, causing episodic sequences, unique only to Impressionism. Mansfield incorporates an immense psychological presence in her formation of these characters, giving them almost Freudian qualities. "all humans are endowed with an unconscious in which potent sexual and aggressive drives, and defenses against them, struggle for supremacy." By using these concepts in the above stories, Mansfield sheds a light on to her characters that makes them seen unordinary. She does this by focusing deeply on the characters themselves, and their placing in mundane everyday happenings that would do not usually evoke heroism.Impressionism seems more evident in At the Bay, for symbolism further envelopes the reader, shedding new light on the characters.

The Manuka tree's flowers seem to be another metaphor for Linda's unfulfilled existence, "Why, then, flower at all? Who takes the trouble- or the joy - to make all these things that are wasted, wasted....

.It was uncanny." Beryl's constant self-absorption is seen as an escape from her void relationships, and like Linda, retreats into her dream world, where she envisions herself being rescued by a perfect man. Both stories seem

to reflect the Socratic idea of the unexamined life, a role that is played out by almost all the characters.

The third short story, The Garden Party, differs from the above two stories in that it has much more of an apparent protagonist, Laura. Laura is the perfect paradigm of dual vision, she is portrayed in situations of responsibility that are above her grasp, hence experiencing a "shifting, part child, part adult self." Throughout the story we see Laura's character experience a temporary identity crisis, evoked by the approach of adulthood, personified by the oncoming experience and loss of innocence. Also crucial to the Garden Party is the theme of social class, a concept used by Mansfield to hint at the powerful contrasts in life.Mansfield takes a non-sequiter approach to developing the story, by using this technique she enhances the plot by applying a convention of Modernism, apparent in her abrupt start to the story and her lack of introduction of the characters. Illusion and reality are central themes in the story; Laura is partly influenced by her social upbringing, and the upper-class pretension of exclusion of the working-class world.

Mansfield changes the narrator's point of view in this instance, so that the reader can associate better with Laura, as she journeys towards social maturity. As Laura approaches maturity, the reality outside the Sheridan gates becomes faintly apparent to her, yet it still seems an illusion, "She had a glimpse of that poor woman and those little children, and the body being carried into the house. But it all seemed blurred, unreal, like a picture in the newspaper."Impressionism is evident in the Garden Party through the

presentation of the Sheridan mansion.

Mansfield's descriptive language presents a "richly textured, suggestive world." The seemingly ethereal vision of the Sheridan house is quickly juxtaposed with the worker's dwellings, providing a swift representation of light and dark, which in turn influences the atmosphere in the story, as Laura enters the ominous worker's neighborhood. The Impressionistic notion of the process of "an apperceptive consciousness perceiving reality" is ever apparent in Laura's development and growth or awakening. In this sense the Garden Party can be viewed as a bildungsroman, for Laura "must journey to and return from as part of her initiation into life's mystery-death-and away from the dream world of her family."Throughout the three short stories, "Prelude", "At the Bay" and "The Garden Party", Mansfield has brought out the concepts of Modernism, Impressionism and many other movements such as Symbolism, Realism and Naturalism.

By representing duality and unity in her works, Mansfield opens to us the inner framework of her characters, and thus concretes her belief that wholeness is to be acquired in order to become fulfilled. This quest of identity is central throughout her work, and through her narration of the stories and the experiences of her characters the reader too can journey along the path to fulfillment, a path that was critical to Katherine Mansfield herself, a path fundamental, "to the woman, to the writer and to her art."

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