The ideas of marriage are explored by Katherine Mansfield in ‘Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding’, ‘Bliss’ and ‘The Woman at the Store’.
In these two stories Mansfield conveys the destructive nature of men and how women are manipulated and exploited by their husbands within their marriages. A sense of overwhelming male dominance is created through Mansfield’s descriptions of the authority and power which the men have over the women.Mansfield explores the self-centredness of man and the lack of affection they have for their wife in ‘Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding’ through the characterisation of Herr Brechenmacher and the objectifying view in which he has towards his wife. Herr Brechenmacher’s self centeredness is highlighted by Mansfield very early in the story when he just arrives home. He commands of ‘where are my clothes?’ and sarcasm tone of ‘nothing ready, of course’ conveys the lack of appreciation he has towards his wife’s efforts. The commanding tone of ‘where are my clothes?’ along with the use of the pronoun ‘my’ conveys to the reader the dominance of the husband and his lack of affection towards his wife and children. His dialogue of ‘there isn’t room to turn.
I want the light. You go and dress in the passage.’ Further emphasizes on his self centeredness as well as highlighting his lack of affection for his wife as he does not consider the wife’s feelings. The ‘light’ is symbolic of spot light therefore Mansfield portrays to the reader the arrogance inside of Herr Brechenmacher as he wants to get all the attention proving again his self-centredness. The animated object of the button ‘shining with enthusiasm’ symbolises His excitement and enthusiastic feeling towards the wedding. Mansfield uses Herr Brechenmacher’s actions ‘he took a piece of the crumb…
held it up to her mouth.’ To convey the lack of respect he has towards his wife and evokes anger inside the reader. The ‘crumb’ is symbolic of leftovers which show the lack of consideration Herr has towards his wife as he does not consider her welfare by giving her what he could not finish.The action ‘held it up to her mouth’ highlights how Herr is infantilising his wife by treating her like a child this links to Mansfield’s earlier description of the wife as ‘little Frau’. This shows the dominance and authority which Herr has over his wife by bossing her around and making he take up things which he ‘discarded’. The food is also symbolic of appetite therefore when Herr has satisfied his physical need he ‘he looked up at her, grinning’ the verb ‘grinning’ suggests that he is now wanting to satisfy his sexual appetite. Therefore Mansfield uses his treatment of his wife to convey to the reader how man objectifies their wife and only sees them as objects to satisfy their sexual desires.
Mansfield through Herr Brechenmacher presents to the reader her negative views on marriage and conveys the ways which wives are manipulated by their husbands. The typical example of Herr highlights the ignorance and self-centeredness of a husband and the lack of consideration and affection they have towards their wife. The reader feels repelled from Herr Brechenmacher and is angry at his unequal treatment of his wife.
A sense of a loveless marriage is created by Mansfield almost to the extent that they are only together because of society regulations and not because of love.Mansfield also exhibits the lack of power a woman holds in a marriage in the story of ‘Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding’ through the characterisation of Frau Brechenmacher. Frau like all other married woman knows that they are subjected to their husband’s abusing as ‘every wife has her cross’ however she is also similar to the other married woman by the fact that she does not do anything to prevent this. Her loveless marriage results in her despair of ‘what is it all for’ showing to the audience that she is devoid of happiness.
Mansfield then through the mouth of Frau uses the authorial voice and penalises ‘all the woman around the world’ by calling them ‘stupid’ for not retaliating against this injustice and mocks them by commenting that it is ‘always the same’. The reader does not feel sympathise towards Frau and is also upset by her lack of retaliation against the situation. The last line as Frau ‘put her arm across her face like a child who expected to be hurt’ foreshadows that the vicious cycle will continue to go on and evokes a sense of anger inside the reader conveying to them the lack of control a wife has within her marriage.
Mansfield uses ‘Bliss’ to present the reader with a different view of marriage, one that is superficial and shallow, she does this through the character-Bertha , her stream of consciousness and her epiphany at the end of the lovelessness within their marriage. Bertha’s view on her marriage is one of superficial and fake, she imagines that she has ‘everything’ and ‘Harry and she were as much in love as ever’ that she has the perfect life. However the reader cannot stop themselves from realising that the ‘bliss’ she thinks she is in is none existent and that really she has nothing. Her epiphany at the end of the story of Harry’s affection for Miss Fulton is simply ignored by her as she chooses to live in denial. This is similar with ‘Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding’ as Frau too realises the lovelessness within their marriage but does not do anything about it.
A sense of frustration is created inside the reader as they see the foolishness of Bertha and her denial of the truth. Mansfield uses Miss Fulton to mock Bertha with her sarcasm at the end of the story of ‘your lovely pear tree- pear tree- pear tree’. The pear tree is symbolic of Harry therefore Miss Fulton is mocking Bertha as she has now won Harry over. This contrasts with ‘Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding’ as the female character Miss Fulton is strong and subjective whereas Frau is ‘little’ and does nothing. The superficial view of marriage by Mansfield is picked up by the reader as they start to realise the emptiness within the marriages both in ‘Bliss’ and ‘Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding’.In the story ‘The Woman at the Store’ Mansfield provides the reader a married woman whose soul has been broken by the husband, she examines on the effects of marriage and the exploitation of woman through the characterisation of the male characters. Jo and Hin are only interested in satisfying their sexual desires by using the woman as a sexual tool by stating that the woman will ‘promise you something else before she shakes hands with you.’ The imagery of the ‘ ‘awks’ preying on the woman is effective in conveying the sexual desires within the male characters.
This idea of objectifying the female links to the story of ‘Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding’ where Frau gets abused by her husband Herr Brechenmacher.The woman’s response is also significant and contrasts strongly with the Frau as she does retaliate against the men. This is foreshadowed by the child’s drawing of her mother shooting her father. This shows the woman is broken by marriage, child-bearing and solitude as she responds with violence. The theme of man is seen as a destroyer of the female in sexual relationships is connected to ‘Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding’ where Frau’s confidence is completely crushed by Herr as shown when she imagines ‘that all these people were laughing at her.
‘ Mansfield through this story presents her negative views of marriage and the effect of marriages on woman. The reader feels disgust as the woman cannot escape from her lust for men and is willing to let them use her as a sexual tool however her retaliation does regain her some redemption.Ultimately, Mansfield through her stories presents to the reader a negative view of marriage. She explores the superficialality of the marriages as they are all devoid of love and is only existent because of society regulations.
She conveys the arrogance of man and the lack of affection they have towards their wife but is also upset by the lack of retaliation of the woman characters in the stories. Her authorial voice constantly mocks them of their lack of action and foreshadows the vicious cycle that will continue. The reader feels the unbalance within each different marriage and feels the powerlessness of the female characters.