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Essay on Katherine Mansfield's Bliss

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Katherine Mansfield's "Bliss"


Katherine Mansfield¡¦s short story Bliss is filled with a lot of underlying mean-ings and themes. There are as well many symbols that Mansfield uses and among those the pear tree is an important one. In this essay I will prove that the pear tree is both a symbol for for Bertha and her life and the awakening of her sexuality.

First I will sketch on the symbolic meanings of a pear and a tree as they are described in symbolic books and I will then focus on the pear tree in relation to Ber-tha throughout the story.

In many books such as those of psychoanalysis and symbolism the pear is ¡V like the apple ¡V a symbol of fertility and due to its bosom-like shape an image for the feminine sexuality. Moreover a dream of a pear or an apple tree means good news that is important for the rest of the life . The tree for itself has as well symbols for its own. In many religions and myths there is the Tree of Life. Trees often spend safety, shadow and food. A healthful and flowering tree is a symbol of strong potency. A draughty tree symbolises misfortune, whereas a tree full of fruits and leaves means luck and also bliss .

     At the very beginning of the story we get to know the thirty-year-old Bertha Young coming home and preparing herself and the house for a dinner party at the evening. At first sight we see her as a very blissful young woman who seems to have ¡§everything¡¨ ¡V ¡§she was married¡¨, ¡§she was young¡¨, had an ¡§adorable baby¡¨, an ¡§ab-solutely satisfactory house and garden¡¨ and ¡§modern friends¡¨ (p.123) ¡V but later we should find out that she is everything but satisfied with her life . As Bertha makes ref-erences to a pear tree in her garden a dozens of times throughout the story seeing it ¡§as a symbol of her own life¡¨ (p.123) I would say that she feels herself rooted to the life she has created in the same way as the pear tree is rooted to the garden.

     But there is quite a more explicit connection between Bertha and the pear tree in the sense of growing and flowering. As already stated even since the Middle Ages the pear tree has often been seen as an image for the female sexuality and also in Bliss it serves as such an image . The pear tree is described as a ¡§tall, slender pear tree in fullest, richest bloom.¡¨ It stands ¡§perfect, as though becalmed against the jade-green sky¡¨ (p.122). It i...


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...ll, as we can see the pear tree is ¡§as lovely as ever and as full of flowers and as still¡¨ (p. 136) so Bertha is feeling, too. She sees how her pear tree can stand alone proudly, day after day. And she feels that she can easily do the same.

In conclusion we can say that the pear tree in Bliss serves very much as a symbol and a metaphor for Bertha by representing us her feelings: the pear tree is in fullest richest bloom and so she is, too. Also the awakening of her sexuality is imaged by the pear tree and thus Bertha is no longer young ¡V which is suggested by her name ¡V but has gained the same maturity as the pear tree.

Works cited:


Primary Literature:

„h Mansfield, Katherine. Bliss and Other Stories. London: Constable Publ., 1920.


Secondary Literature:

„h Fullbrock, Kate. Katherine Mansfield. Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1986.

„h Hankin, Clark. Katherine Mansfield and Her Confessional Stories. London: The Macmillian Press, 1983.

„h Hoffmann-Krayer, Ernst et. al., Handwoerterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1927.

„h Hanson, Clare and Andrew Gurr. Katherine Mansfield. New York: St. Martins Press New York, 1981.


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