Katherine Mansfield The Ideal Family Essay

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Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)
The Ideal Family: Interpretation
The story under study was written by Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923), a British novelist and short-story writer, closely associated with D.H. Lawrence and something of a rival of Virginia Woolf. Mansfield's creative years were burdened with loneliness, illness, jealousy, alienation – all this reflected in her work with the bitter depiction of marital and family relationships of her middle-class characters, as well as subtle changes in human behavior. Our task is now to see whether or not this story, “The Ideal Family,” is an exception.
To begin with, I’d like to attract your attention to the title. At first sight, it’s quite clear in meaning, as the story itself is indeed
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Nothing of this can be said about the members of his family, who are described rather one-sidedly. This concerns, for instance, Harold Neave, “too handsome, too handsome by far,” who was made “a young god” of, what made him haughty, conceited and self-seeking, so that he has “only to look and to smile,” and thus achieves everything. His sisters are in fact no better than him: smart, good-looking and rather carefree and small-minded, they are totally indifferent to their father’s hardships.
All this is described in a very imaginative formal language, abundant of various stylistic means, so typical of Katherine Mansfield’s prose. Thus, I’d like to pay your attention to the way the hero’s feelings are opposed to the atmosphere around him, expressed by a number of epithets: a passer-by will see “a fine mild evening” and “the golden light” of the sun, feel “warm, eager and restless spring” coming, and hear “the soft churr of the mower”, while to Mr. Neave, the sun is “curiously cold,” the air is “heavy and solid.” The old man’s bitterness is increased by the fact that “he couldn't meet” this spring, “he couldn't square up once more and stride off, he hadn't the energy, he hadn't the heart to stand this gaiety any longer”; for this purpose repetitions and parallel constructions are used. Here in the text one may also find a great