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Mansfield's short stories

Death pervades Mansfield's short stories. Her own illness of pleurisy/consumption and the harsh effects of World War I focused her thinking and reactions. As social commentator, she continued to remain an active participant in the European intelligencia. Like many of her contemporaries, however, Mansfield felt cut off from the harshness of death and war (x-xi).

The Daughters of The Late Colonel and The Garden Party depict characters in society facing the real world consequences of death. Through Josephine and Constantia in Daughters, Mansfield emphasizes how illness and death pervades not only the dead but the living as well. Death cuts the daughters off from an adult, mature life; trapped in their service to the memory of their overbearing father that leaves them ill-equipped and unprepared to live life on their own. In The Garden Party, Mansfield contrasts the seeming purity and innocence of an adolescent garden party with the realities of sudden death. She again shows a society isolated and cut off from true feelings and humanity. Again, the protagonists fail to realistically address life and are ill-equipped to recognize and deal with everyday events such as dying.

Mansfield's sisters in Daughters are emotionally and metaphorically handicapped by the memory of death and overwhelmed by the encroachment of the world caused by the death of their father. Josephine and Constantia live in constant fear and awe of their father and of the retribution he would incur on them--even in death: "Josephine had had a moment of absolute terror . . . to think that she and Constantia had done this thing without asking his permission . . ." (Mansfield 469). Ironically, the father's role as a colonel conveys the image of the World War I which Mansfield lived through. His is not a young death, but an ancient one of an old soldier still fighting old wars: "He lay there, purple, a dark, angry purple in the face, and never even looked at them whe...

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Mansfield's short stories. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 06:01, May 31, 2020, from