‘Bliss’ by Katherine Mansfield

Bliss by Katherine Mansfield, 1918

The magic trick:

Building a story around two parallel worlds – one real and one perceived

Happy Valentine’s Day! We have a complicated little love story for you today.

“Bliss” does an excellent job of presenting two worlds, existing simultaneously but on parallel tracks. We have the action of the story – a dinner party being thrown by Bertha and Harry Young – alongside the interior world of the hostess, Bertha.

The party isn’t particularly exciting. Bertha’s thoughts and feelings are far more interesting to track. She has fallen in love with one of the dinner guests, a woman named Pearl.

The tracks carry on just fine for most of the story. It’s only when they intersect, and Bertha’s interior world is rocked by reality, that problems arise.

And that’s quite a trick on Mansfield’s part.

The selection:

“I’m absurd. Absurd!” She sat up; but she felt quite dizzy, quite drunk. It must have been the spring.

Yes, it was the spring. Now she was so tired she could not drag herself upstairs to dress.

A white dress, a string of jade beads, green shoes and stockings. It wasn’t intentional. She had thought of this scheme hours before she stood at the drawing-room window.

Her petals rustled softly into the hall, and she kissed Mrs. Norman Knight, who was taking off the most amusing orange coat with a procession of black monkeys round them and up the fronts.


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