The Beginning Scene of Katherine Mansfields A Cup of Tea.

Moving first from the character description into expository explanation of her history to the final relating of what happens, including little snippets of dialogue. Though we do get closer, we never get close to Rosemary Fell. We are always distanced, allowing us to understand her and also to feel superior to her in some ways. The end of this description sets us up for the rest of the story, introducing the contrast of the rich, rather plain, shallow and privileged Rosemary Fell to the pretty, unassuming and quiet little waif.

The first couple of lines become extremely important and obviously astute at the end of the story: “Rosemary Fell was not exactly beautiful. No, you couldn’t have called her beautiful. Pretty? Well, if you took her to pieces…..But why be so cruel as to take anyone to pieces?” (Mansfield, K. 2002, 362-4) This is an interesting comment on the narrator, possibly the author’s self opinion, that she could be decidedly cruel, because the subject was an easy victim and fit the role or possibly that it is her nature, but she will display the control of herself for our admiration. We really do not know what might have been going through the author’s mind at the time of the writing, whether or not she pictured the narrator as herself or another character. However, we do know that the narrator is decidedly a member of the “inner circle” taking a poke or two at Rosemary Fell, and she is another character. I say she after careful consideration of the text. The narrator is definitely female.

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The ending of the first paragraph where the narrator mentions the guests at Rosemary’s parties includes famous people and, “artists – quaint creatures, discoveries of hers, some of them too terrifying for words, but others quite presentable and amusing,” is a very telling phrase. Katherine Mansfield has not been seen as a feminist writer until somewhat recently, though writers like Brigid Brophy certainly numbered her among the feminists.Perhaps this is because she never preaches, but simply shows us life as it was in her time (she died in 1923) Her fiction does not focus upon the status of women directly, but their status and their conditioning to that status are certainly partly responsible for their thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Each of the women in this passage is conditioned to their status. In fact, even the one man who appears is conditioned to his status, which is based upon economics. So we see that she has shown us class divisions and yet not preached about them.&nbsp. Just as Van Gogh used his art to make statements about the peasants of rural France, Mansfield paints prose portraits as a statement about class and gender conditioning and discrimination.&nbsp. We don’t have to be told that the differences among the characters in this passage are arbitrary and unfair. We can see it and we react to it. The unnoticed nudge may be far more powerful than the visible ram because it can be repeated over and over again.

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