by Katherine Mansfield
The fragment analysis is taken from the short story “A cup of tea”.
It is written by one of the New Zealand most well-known short story writer Katherine Mansfield.
It’s my first reading experience with this author, but it’s lucky one. On the other hand, it’s difficult to understand author’s language. Therefore, I read this short story twice. To be honest, when I read the story, I thought “how absurd this is, how she can write uninteresting story”. The first appearance of the writer to me was just like this. But when I re- read this story I realized that the story is not that absurd and she use simple constructions to describe main characters. In my opinion her writing skill in a high level. She gives us her opinion clearly and effectively. And I really like this story. Because in this story Mansfield focused on the working of a woman’s mind when her romantic dreams come into conflict with reality. In this way she dramatized small the effect that small human feelings like jealously can have.
A Cup of Tea has an authorial narrative voice, i.e. we hear the author speak in the third person. This is called third- person narrative and it is the most common narrative technique in fiction. Also it’s written like dialogue short story between Rosemary Fell and little poor girl Miss Smith, Rosemary and her husband Philip Fell, Rosemary and shopkeeper. Looking at K. Mansfield’s story from the point of the language use between the participants, we come across with variability making the text closer to real, authentic usage by means of questions, answers, requests, imperatives, exclamations and so on.
In my point of view it’s a sad, on the one hand black humor short story including sarcasm. Why it’s sad? Because some part of the society spend their money to buy unnecessary things, but some people haven’t money for a cup of tea. Why it’s black humor? At the Fells home, Miss Smith eats her fill. She then begins to tell Rosemary about her life when Philip comes in. Although initially surprised, Philip recovers and asks to speak to Rosemary alone. In the library, Philip conveys his disapproval. When Rosemary resists dismissing Miss Smith, Philip tries another, more successful, tactic. He plays to Rosemary’s jealousy by telling her how pretty Miss Smith is. Rosemary retrieves three, 5 pound notes and presumably, sends the girl away.
You can now understand that the whole story revolves around Rosemary and it is the workings of her mind which Mansfield wants us to see. It is Mansfield’s main purpose understanding of the female psyche, her concern for human feeling in a concrete situation that arrests our attention. This genuine concern gives her a delicate and personal insight into the problems of personal relationships. I think she wants to convey us that we are left delighted by the way in which we become intimate with the way men and women conduct themselves in real- life situations and work out their problems of living.
A Cup of Tea is basically a story of human relationships. As I understand, Mansfield excels in portraying the characters of men, women and children. In the present story, her vision of life is expressed through her theme i.e. man and woman as husband and wife, in a way quite characteristic of her. She describes the truth of human experience honestly without any attempt at hiding anything.
A Cup of Tea is a beautiful story by Mansfield where there is a gentle irony in the end. The central character, Rosemary Fell has two sides to her character. At first, we see how Rosemary is motivated by the good intention to help a poor, distressed girl. Later on, however, we see how once her jealousy is aroused, all her good intentions come to nothing and she can be as mean and pretty as anybody else. I think that it’s a problem of human relations and their psychology.
I divide this short story into 3 parts.
I) beginning the story i.e. introduction
II) Rosemary -before meeting the Miss Smith
III) Rosemary- after meeting the Miss Smith
The story opens with the narrator’s opinion about a rich couple named Rosemary and Philip. a) The first part can be regarded as an introduction. In this part we get acquainted with the main characters of the story. For example Rosemary spends money without getting into trouble and giving no reason or excuse to her husband in doing this. Everyone in a society admires Rosemary not maybe for her beauty but for her remarkable features such as being interested in current movements from every aspects, seeming as an intelligent young woman, reading the modern books. Philip is not as bright as Rosemary but he makes himself realize as soon as he enters the story towards the end. b) From the second part there is a girl who meets Rosemary in a street by asking for money to have a cup of tea then is picked up by her to have a cup of tea at her home and begins to be directed by her. Rosemary wants to help her, to take care of her. c) The story ends conversation between Rosemary and Philip. And she forgot about her promise given to little girl and sent her away with a present of money.
The story, “A Cup of Tea” tells us how people show generosity to people whom they consider their inferior. People do so partly to show off their superiority to the poorer beings. Generosity in most cases is only to satisfy one’s ego. The story further shows how generosity and benevolence evaporates when the object of pity goes against one’s self interest, ego and vanity. I think author wants to inform to readers know prices of everything and not be jealous.
In my opinion the title of the story has a deeply meaning. Because when I read title I didn’t imagine that it’s about poor girl who haven’t money for a cup of tea. Maybe the Mansfield’s purpose by giving such kind of title for this story let us know that some part of society can’t find money for of tea which we needed every day, but some of us spend money for unnecessary things. If I were an author I also will give this title.
Why I liked this story? Firstly, it is very interesting in spite of that its reads difficult. Author gives us unforgettable images like Rosemary and Miss Smith and Philip. He has only a small part in the story, but he is nonetheless vital in the sense that he helps to reveal the faults in her character. He hurts her female ego by praising the beauty of Miss Smith and admitting that he was overpowered by her beauty. This leads Rosemary to behave in a manner that exposes her womanly jealousy. Rosemary wanted to model herself as a woman of amiable, compassionate nature as one may find in a Dostoevsky novel. She wanted to project herself as a morally upright person. But it is Philip who unwittingly reveals her true nature. She becomes jealous about the girl who is much more beautiful than her. Philip, however, is totally unaware about the effect his comments have on Rosemary. He accepts her explanation that Miss Smith has insisted on going and so she could not keep her against her will. He loves Rosemary and falls for her charms when she carefully dresses up to present herself as a beautiful and charming coquette. I like the author’s writing style. Because it’s like advice for readers therefore, I recommend to read this short story.