A Study of Katherine Mansfield’s Bliss
Katherine Mansfield’s story, “Bliss,” is about sex. Yet, because Bertha’s sexuality does not manifest itself in an immediate desire for a heterosexual sexual encounter it is difficult to determine how sexuality figures in the story. The presentation of sexuality in Mansfield’s stories is so unique that most critics contributing to Jan Pilditch’s The Critical Response to Katherine Mansfield do not realize how deeply sexuality figures in the stories and do not refer to it in their analyses. Cherry Hankin theorizes that Mansfield’s stories are about the psychological impact on a character when fantasy and reality conflict, yet she never defines fantasy as sexual, and feels the fantasy, in “Bliss” that is destroyed is that Bertha and Pearl are “‘creatures of another world’” (Pilditch, 188). Likewise, one anonymous reviewer, who fails to identify Bertha’s bliss as a sexual manifestation, writes, “It was an illusion. The intercommunication was due, not to a magic of mutual comprehension but to a common desire” (Pilditch, 52). These critics misunderstand the sexuality portrayed and do not pay due attention to the shifting voice of narration, for the description of the shared moments is not written as Bertha’s thoughts, but as a third-person narration. The women’s communion together does happen and is not an illusion. The revelation at the end of the story marks Bertha’s loss of innocence and initiation into the confusing world of sexual relations. Vincent O’Sullivan writes, …“Bliss” may be the obvious story of
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