Dominant characters appear in most of Katherine Mansfield’s anthology ‘The Collected Stories’, usually in a form of an anti-hero or just a nagging wife and kids. ‘But how could she explain to Constantia that father was in the chest of drawers?’ Constantia and Josephine, having been under the rule of their oppressive father for so long, have developed an irrationality which disallowed the twins to find release in his death.Mansfield uses highly descriptive language in her stories, which allows for the reader to experience the fear ‘The Daughters of the late Colonel’ experience when venturing into their fathers room. ”It was the coldness which made it so awful.
Or the whiteness-which? Everything was covered.” Effectively portraying their emotions through the narration, Mansfield uses first person narration to show us as the readers the irrationality of ‘Connie’ and ‘Jug’. ‘He was watching there, hidden away-just behind the door’. Another example of Mansfield’s use of descriptive language is Mr. Neave is pressured by his family to retire.’ Sitting at home, twiddling his thumbs, conscious all the while that his life’s work was slipping away, dissolving, and disappearing through Harold’s fine fingers.
‘ The descriptive language used frequently in Mansfield’s stories enables the reader to experience the effects of the Colonel’s dominance on his Children. In constant fear of their [dead] father ready to spring out, forces the twins to ‘be weak’, and retreat from their fathers room. “No, don’t, Jug,’ whispered Constantia earnestly, ‘It’s much better not to. Don’t open anything, at any rate, not for a long time.”In passage two, Mansfield explores the idea of the ‘secret self’ in her characters. Subjugated to the commands of ‘Miss Beryl’, Alice [the maid] in the story ‘Prelude’ secretly ‘had the most marvelous retorts for questions she knew would never be put to her.’ A maid in a household, Alice has no choice but to succumb to Miss Beryl’s orders. ‘She wasn’t one to mind being told, but there was something in the way Miss Beryl had of speaking to her that she couldn’t stand.
‘ This dominance over a character such as Alice, forces her into a ‘secret self’ where she begins to imagine a persona with a witty repartee and ‘marvelous retorts’. “If you please, Mrs. Burnell,’ said an imaginary Alice ‘I’d rather not take my orders from Miss Beryl, I may only be a common servant girl as doesn’t know how to play the guitar, but..” Similarly, Mr.
Neave is constantly thinking of cynical retorts to his daughters who are trying to make him retire and ‘enjoy’ a life of retirement. ‘Well, well! … Where would Lola and her sisters be if he’d gone in for Hobbies? .. Hobbies wouldn’t pay for the town house and the seaside bungalow.
..’ Characters that are suffering from others suppression and dominance in Mansfield’s ‘Collected Stories’, usually portray a secret self otherwise unseen to the rest of the characters in the story, yet clearly evident to the readers.In passage three, Mr.
Neave is shown to be submissive to his ‘perfect family’. It is unusual in this case because at the time period when the story was written, the man was the metaphorical ‘head of the house’. ‘Why will you be so unreasonable father? There’s absolutely no need for you to go to the office. It only makes it very awkward for us when people persist in saying how tired you’re looking.’ His children are also defying the times, as women were expected to leave home and marry at a young age, ‘they just had too good a time at home. ‘They were too happy together, the girls and Charlotte. H’m h’m. Well, well.
‘ Another example of role reversal is Mr. Hammond and Janey in ‘The Strange’. Having just returned from her long journey, Janey returns home to a childish man ‘bouncing’ her up and down, and his insecurities, ‘Janey just felt like she was never meant to be his. Mansfield defies the times in her short stories, with role reversals such as women dominating the men. This is due to Mansfield’s feminist view on relationships.
A unique literary ability Mansfield adopts is the depiction of the alter ego one projects to theoutside world in order to achieve a sense of acceptance. ‘At the Bay’, a complication of chapters following the lives of a New Zealand family, potrays multiple examples of the secret-self. Soon after the family ‘sweetly and gaily’ bid farewell to the family patriarch, Stanley, they are soon to revel in his absence, chanting ‘gone? Gone!’ With his prescene no longer a concern ‘their very voices were changed’ and there was ‘no man to disturb them’ On a more individual level, characters such as Vera of ‘A Dill Pickle’ suffer from an inner turmoil that ceases to match their stoic facades. As the ‘beast within her bosom’ began to purr’ the reader is exposed to her cacophony of desires, her loneliness that she so desperately wishes to quell. Mansfield is unique in her ability to convey both the fabricated external image projected by her character along with their inner interpretation of themselves and their situations.A large proportion of Mansfield’s works are those that revolve around that of the upper class. She expresses the notion that those who obtain great wealth do not necessarily hold a perfect life.
This is demonstrated in the second passage as Mr Neave in ‘An Ideal Family’, appears to be emotionally detached from his family to the extent that he is frustrated with the thought that ‘his life’s work was disappearing through Harold’s (Mr Neave’s son) fine fingers’. This contrasts with The Boss in Mansfield’s piece ‘The Fly’, as after his son’s death, invisions no purpose in his business if it cannot be inherited. Again, The Boss’s son and lack of purporse demonstrate Mansfield’s portrayal of the wealthy as being less than perfect.
Dominance in ‘The Collected Stories’ is shown through many of the characters, and through this dominance comes other themes such as the secret self. Mansfield also expands on her views on feminism as she reverses the roles of the sexes.