Katherine Mansfield

The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.

– Katherine Mansfield



born in Wellington, New Zealand,  October 14, 1888

died: January 09, 1923

gender: female

website: http://www.katherinemansfield.com/

genre: Literature & FictionShort Stories

influences: Anton Chekhov
Kathleen Mansfield Murry was a prominent New Zealand modernist writer of short fiction who wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield.

Katherine Mansfield is widely considered one of the best short story writers of her period. A number of her works, including “Miss Brill”, “Prelude”, “The Garden Party”, “The Doll’s House”, and later works such as “The Fly”, are frequently collected in short story anthologies. Mansfield also proved ahead of her time in her adoration of Russian playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov, and incorporated some of his themes and techniques into her writing.

Katherine Mansfield was part of a “new dawn” in English literature with T S Elliot, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. She was associated with the brilliant group of writers who made the London of the period the centre of the literary world.

Nevertheless, Mansfield was a New Zealand writer – she could not have written as she did had she not gone to live in England and France, but she could not have done her best work if she had not had firm roots in her native land. She used her memories in her writing from the beginning, people, the places, even the colloquial speech of the country form the fabric of much of her best work.

Mnsfield’s stories were the first of significance in English to be written without a conventional plot. Supplanting the strictly structured plots of her predecessors in the genre (Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells), Mansfield concentrated on one moment, a crisis or a turning point, rather than on a sequence of events. The plot is secondary to mood and characters. The stories are innovative in many other ways. They feature simple things – a doll’s house or a charwoman. Her imagery, frequently from nature, flowers, wind and colours, set the scene with which readers can identify easily.

Themes too are universal: human isolation, the questioning of traditional roles of men and women in society, the conflict between love and disillusionment, idealism and reality, beauty and ugliness, joy and suffering and the inevitabilty of these paradoxes. Oblique narration (influenced by Chekhov but certainly developed by Mansfield) includes the use of symbolism – the doll’s house lamp, the fly, the pear tree – hinting at the hidden layers of meaning. Suggestion and implication replace direct detail.

5 thoughts on “Katherine Mansfield

  1. October 14, 1888: Short story writer Katherine Mansfield lived a brief and rebellious life, full of affairs with both men and women. She left her native New Zealand in part due to disgust over the treatment of the Maori people and lived a bohemian life in London before dying of tuberculosis at 34.

  2. “The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.”
    It is frustrating to be excited about something you read and not have anyone to share it with. But that is the same with anything you are interested in. You are bubbling with excitement and you only get a yawn. 😦
    How sad for her life to have ended at 34.

  3. So very true, her quote about sharing books with another.

  4. what a lovely quote – so very true.

  5. I grew up reading Katherine Mansfield – as I got older I uncovered more and more meaning in her stories. This little country has produced some amazing writers and artists and she is among the greatest! Thank you for sharing her again 🙂

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