Katherine Mansfield's Fiction

By Patrick D. Morrow | Go to book overview

Chapter Four

Stories from Bliss and Other Stories (1920)

After her initial success with In a German Pension, Mansfield waited almost an entire decade before publishing her next volume, Bliss and Other Stories. Bliss and Other Stories was published in London by Constable in 1920, and in New York in 1921. In this second volume, we have a much more polished artist who is gaining a good deal of self-confidence while remaining viciously self-critical. KM had begun to refine her craft of the short story. She was "eager to discover the fulfillment by others of her own ideals" (Alpers 296), and she began to focus primarily on the imagination. Bliss was the first volume published after her health had begun to decline drastically. She began to recognize more readily her own mortality, and her themes in Bliss are evidence to this. KM had very bleak themes, but in this volume she makes a change in her method. She begins to use daydreams to show the innerworkings of a character's mind. "A characteristic of KM's method is her use of daydreams. In all her later stories, written after In a German Pension, she uses it. It becomes an indispensable part of her method" (Friis 128). Also, her recurrent theme of isolation, both isolation of the individual in society and self-induced isolation which occurs in the character's psyche, is prevalent in this volume. "She continues to emphasize what is the distinctive note in her sense of the world—that each person lives to himself or herself alone" (Alpers 299).

The overwhelmingly positive critical reception of this volume surprised even Mansfield. "The critics of its day found Bliss a brilliant performance, but the view of life that it seemed to represent was called into question" (Alpers 301). Mansfield was just too bleak and depressing. Her illness had begun to have a great impact on her, and she was growing dissatisfied with her life. Even after the success of this volume, she wrote, "A great part of my book is trivial. It's not good enough" (Alpers 302). She had

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