Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923)
Study Questions and Activities
- What might Miss Brill’s fur wrap symbolize?
- How does Miss Brill deal with reality?
- What do we know about Miss Brill’s life?
- What details suggest that Miss Brill might be ill?
- What is the main conflict in the story?
- Miss Brill is the protagonist in the story. Is there an antagonist?
- The cupboard as simile is used twice: first, at the end of the fifth paragraph, and next, in the last paragraph. Explain how the final cupboard simile differs from the first.
- Does she experience an epiphany?
The Daughters of the Late Colonel
- Both “Turn of the Screw” and “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” could be described as ghost stories, but they have different effects and intentions.” Discuss.
- What are some of the techniques Mansfield uses to convey the sisters’ indecision?
- Contrast the two sisters.
- We learn more about the sisters by attending to what others think about them. How do the observations of Nurse Andrews, the minister, Kate, and Cyril help shape our conceptions of these sisters?
- What are some of the ways that Mansfield conveys the power the Colonel still seems to have? How have the sisters shaped their identities around their father?
- At the end of the story, does Mansfield suggest any growth for these characters?
- Read the article, Colin Norman Essay, and then write an essay comparing the concept of Freudian repression in Joyce’s “Eveline” and Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel.”
- Contrast Old Woodifield with his boss.
- What do the two men have in common in their personal lives?
- How would you describe the boss’s reaction to the death of his son?
- How does the office provide what is referred to in “A Cup of Tea” as a sense of shelter?
- World War I is never specifically mentioned in the story. But in what way is this story about the war?
- What does the fly symbolize? In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the Duke of Gloucester says, “As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport” (4.1). Do you think Mansfield had this quotation in mind? If so, what key event in her experience of the World War I might have influenced her possible allusion to Gloucester’s lines?
A Cup of Tea
- Discuss narrative point of view. Where does it shift (the narrator uses words Rosemary would use herself).
- What are the main scenes in the story? What do the scenes have in common in terms of imagery?
- Where in the story does Rosemary emerge from a sense of shelter?
- What might the little box in the antique shop symbolize?
- Does Rosemary truly believe that women are sisters?
- In the second paragraph of the story, the narrator refers to Michael. Is Michael— “a duck of a boy”— her son?
- Before Michael is mentioned, the narrator refers to Peter. Who might he be?
A good online documentary on Katherine Mansfield: http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/a-portrait-of-katherine-mansfield-1986
15-minute film adaptation of Miss Brill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-MoDs3HR1U
The Garden Party http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/the-garden-party-1983
View the short excerpt from the dramatized film biography, Bliss: the Beginning of Katherine Mansfield: http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/bliss-2011
Monograph on Mansfield’s Representation of single women: http://www.phil.muni.cz/plonedata/wkaa/BSE/BSE_2009-35_Offprints/BSE%202009-35-1-%28137-145%29%20Kascakova.pdf
Katherinemansfield by Notable Names Database (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Katherinemansfield.jpg) is in the Public Domain.