An Analysis of Katherine Mansfield's A Cup of Tea

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The opening passage in Katherine Mansfield's short story "A Cup of Tea" introduces the protagonist in a manner that will serve to underscore the importance of irony to the tale. What is easy to miss in this deceptively pedestrian opening is the invitation to the reader to become part of the storytelling process through an unexpected interrelation with the implied reader: "no, you couldn't have called her beautiful." Not much later, the reader is again made complicit in the telling of Rosemary Fell's story, while at the same time importantly positioning the reader into the consciousness of the class distinctions that exist between Rosemary and the reader when the narrator specifically points out that this is a woman who might on a whim go to Paris in order to shop the way we would go to Bond Street.

The mention of Bond Street as a potential locale to which the narrator and the reader might visit effectively interpellates the implied reader as upscale and not without means, yet certainly not in the same financial sphere as Rosemary. Of course, these social distinctions are not intended merely to separate the reader and the narrator from Rosemary's orbit, but to set up the ironic epiphany to come. This distancing effect serves to create what will become the heightened ironic stance upon which the crux of the story hangs. The entire second paragraph of the story is almost nothing more than an overly intense exercise in drawing into sharp relief the divide that exists between Rosemary Fell and what might well be termed the rest of society; or, at least, a significant portion.

Class distinction, or more accurately social distinction, is at the heart of the thematic concerns of the opening of "A Cup of Tea" and Katherin Mansfield cleverly and concisely punctuates this vital element [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]

 of Rosemary's psyche without resorting to psychobabble. While the effect may not necessarily be precisely termed stream-of-consciousness, it...
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