Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)
The Ideal Family: Interpretation
The story under study was written by Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923), a British novelist and short-story writer, closely associated with D.H. Lawrence and something of a rival of Virginia Woolf. Mansfield's creative years were burdened with loneliness, illness, jealousy, alienation – all this reflected in her work with the bitter depiction of marital and family relationships of her middle-class characters, as well as subtle changes in human behavior. Our task is now to see whether or not this story, “The Ideal Family,” is an exception. To begin with, I’d like to attract your attention to the title. At first sight, it’s quite clear in meaning, as the story itself is indeed about a family that everyone considered to be an exemplary one: so happy and united it seemed. But, as a matter of fact, this prosperity was apparent, and the family with so many problems as the one spoken about can only ironically be called “ideal.” In this respect, the title is closely related to the major theme of the story, which can be formulated as an opposition of semblance and real facts, following that “all is not gold that glitters,” as the famous proverb warns. At this point, I’d like to introduce you the plot itself. In “The Ideal Family” we’re told about an episode from the life of Mr. Neave, a formerly successful businessman, who is now about to retire. The old gentleman is dissatisfied with life: his only son Harold, who is going to become his successor in business, is spoiled and unworthy of this position, while his wife Charlotte and their daughters are only concerned about fashion and entertainment. Mr. Neave, who has worked hard to afford them the luxury they have now, feels abandoned and neglected. However, his adult children are so smart and attractive, and his wife Charlotte seems to be such a remarkable woman, that their family is thought to be “an ideal one.” As we can see, the text can easily be divided...
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