How Katherine Mansfield's Writing Changed Through Her Cannon of Work

Topics: Short story, Fiction, Anton Chekhov Pages: 7 (2903 words) Published: November 26, 2012
Katherine Mansfield was predominantly a short story writer born in New Zealand in 1888. Although she has often been quoted demonstrating a negative view on New Zealand, she “thanks God she was born in New Zealand”. Her father was a successful business man and her mother was a younger woman. It is widely acknowledged that her parents played a major role on her views of men and woman in society and the gender imbalance. She began writing from a very early age writing for her Wellington high school newsletter. One of her first novels and one which strongly represents her views on the gender imbalance in society was Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding. This story represents the Frau very much as the subservient housewife to her more dominant and intimidating husband. The first instance of this is when Frau threatens her daughter with the wrath of her father, to which the daughter immediately responds to the request. This story was strongly based on what Mansfield had seen in her time living in Germany in the earlier stages of her career and the story is an undisguised satire of the German character, in particular the German housewife who Mansfield saw as unkind and somewhat shallow due to their displeasure of their role in society. The story of Frau Brechenmacher continues on and the Frau and her husband attend a wedding. Katherine Mansfield describes the bride as having the ‘appearance of an iced cake all ready to be cut and served in neat little pieces to the bridegroom beside her’. This is a very blatant and obvious piece of writing that outlines the woman’s role in a marriage. This shows that the bride is a mere object to the groom and her role in the marriage is to please her husband. Also, the story goes in to detail about the daughter being shown the role of a woman by her mother which is encouraging the cycle of woman’s servitude and therefore Mansfield puts a negative light on the subject, shown by the quote, “girls have a lot to learn” which carries a negative connotation. However, the Frau is aware of her situation and does not particularly enjoy it as “everybody laughed at his speech, except the Frau” and “She wanted to go home and never come out again”. Katherine Mansfield was opposed to the idea of the traditional role of woman in society and the gender imbalance that was so obvious to her as favourable to the man. Also, she saw and represented men as predatory. This is shown at the very end of Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding when it is stated that she lay on her bed “who expected to get hurt as Herr Brechenmacher lurched in”. This is not the first instance in the story where the Frau and even her daughter are shown to be intimidated by the dominant figure of the relationship in Herr Brechenmacher. This is why Katherine Mansfield intentionally chose to refer to him as ‘the father’ throughout the story as it is like a title. Titles are given to people who are important figures and by giving him this title and Herr Brechenmacher being referred to as the father by his wife and daughter show that they have a certain respect for him but also gives the sense of distance between the husband and his family. The idea of distance between the Frau and her husband is most prolifically represented when he ‘”lurches in” which implies the idea of forced sex on his behalf. This shows that even though they are husband and wife, they are extremely distanced and can potentially not even have consenting sex. This enhances Mansfield’s view of the woman as an object or accessory to the husband as purely for the pleasure of her partner. Frau Brechenmacher is also portrayed to be much more comfortable when she is in the house alone without her husband. Although she is often doing her duties for her husband, she is more relaxed in that environment without the oppressive Herr Brechenmacher. There is a sense of uneasiness when Herr Brechenmacher returns home as she sends her daughter into the bedroom and begins to rush to get...
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