A Cup of Tea by Katherine Mansfield: Creates a Contrast Between the Bland Ordinariness of a Cup of Tea

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A CUP OF TEA
BY KATHERINE MANSFIELD

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Comment [LS1]: The title is linked to the central incident in the story and also acts as a linking device between Rosemary and Miss Smith. As Rosemary emerges from the antique shop in the cold, winter weather, she feels she ‘ought to go home and have an extraspecial cup of tea’. Immediately after that Miss Smith appears, begging desperately for something Rosemary has plenty of but which Miss Smith needs to sustain her existence. Miss Smith’s need for a cup of tea offers Rosemary a chance for the ‘extra-special’ tea she longed for and provides her with the means of creating an adventure for herself. Comment [LS2]: The title also creates a contrast between the bland ordinariness of a cup of tea and what actually takes place between the two women. Having tea with someone indicates friendship and some sort of ‘connection’: unpretentious, natural and hospitable. However, the circumstances under which these women take tea are the opposite. Comment [LS3]: The story opens with a comment about Rosemary’s appearance, showing that image is very important to her and a pivotal feature of the story.

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Rosemary Fell was not exactly beautiful. No, you couldn't have called her beautiful. Pretty? Well, if you took her to pieces... But why be so cruel as to take anyone to pieces? She was young, brilliant, extremely modem, exquisitely well dressed, amazingly well read in the newest of the new books, and her parties were the most delicious mixture of the really important people and... artists - quaint creatures, discoveries of hers, some of them too terrifying for words, but others quite presentable and amusing. Rosemary had been married two years. She had a duck of a boy. No, not Peter - Michael. And her husband absolutely adored her. They were rich, really rich, not just comfortably well off, which is odious and stuffy and sounds like one's grandparents. But if Rosemary wanted to shop she would go to Paris as you and I would go to Bond Street. If she wanted to buy flowers, the car pulled up at that perfect shop in Regent Street, and Rosemary inside the shop just gazed in her dazzled, rather exotic way, and said: "I want those and those and those. Give me four bunches of those. And that jar of roses. Yes, I'll have all the roses in the jar. No, no lilac. I hate lilac. It's got no shape." The attendant bowed and put the lilac out of sight, as though this was only too true; lilac was dreadfully shapeless. "Give me those stumpy little tulips. Those red and white ones." And she was followed to the car by a thin shop-girl staggering under an immense white paper armful that looked like a baby in long clothes.... One winter afternoon she had been buying something in a little antique shop in Curzon

Comment [LS4]: The story is set in London.

Comment [LS5]: Rosemary has disposable income to buy almost anything she pleases. She buys flowers for no other reason than to admire them. This sort of extravagance, symbolised by flowers, is also seen in The Garden Party. Comment [LS6]: Here the narrative technique changes. In the first two paragraphs, Rosemary’s actions/settings/characters were described in limited omniscient POV. From here, the reader will view the world from Rosemary’s perspective. We will be allowed access to her thoughts. This allows Mansfield to highlight the malicious intentions Rosemary has towards Miss Smith.

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Street . It was a shop she liked. For one thing, one usually had it to oneself. And then the man who kept it was ridiculously fond of serving her. He beamed whenever she came in. He clasped his hands; he was so gratified he could scarcely speak. Flattery, of course. All the same, there was something... "You see, madam," he would explain in his low respectful tones, "I love my things. I...
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