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Katherine Mansfield Bliss - the Pear Tree as a Symbol for Bertha's Life

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Essay on Katherine MansfieldÐŽ¦s Bliss

The pear tree as a symbol for BerthaÐŽ¦s life

Katherine MansfieldÐŽ¦s short story Bliss is filled with a lot of underlying mean-ings and themes. There are as well many symbols that Mansfield uses and among those the pear tree is an important one. In this essay I will prove that the pear tree is both a symbol for for Bertha and her life and the awakening of her sexuality.

First I will sketch on the symbolic meanings of a pear and a tree as they are described in symbolic books and I will then focus on the pear tree in relation to Ber-tha throughout the story.

In many books such as those of psychoanalysis and symbolism the pear is ÐŽV like the apple ÐŽV a symbol of fertility and due to its bosom-like shape an image for the feminine sexuality. Moreover a dream of a pear or an apple tree means good news that is important for the rest of the life . The tree for itself has as well symbols for its own. In many religions and myths there is the Tree of Life. Trees often spend safety, shadow and food. A healthful and flowering tree is a symbol of strong potency. A draughty tree symbolises misfortune, whereas a tree full of fruits and leaves means luck and also bliss .

At the very beginning of the story we get to know the thirty-year-old Bertha Young coming home and preparing herself and the house for a dinner party at the evening. At first sight we see her as a very blissful young woman who seems to have ÐŽ§everythingЎЁ ÐŽV ÐŽ§she was marriedЎЁ, ÐŽ§she was youngЎЁ, had an ÐŽ§adorable babyЎЁ, an ÐŽ§ab-solutely satisfactory house and gardenЎЁ and ÐŽ§modern friendsЎЁ (p.123) ÐŽV but later we should find out that she is everything but satisfied with her life . As Bertha makes ref-erences to a pear tree in her garden a dozens of times throughout the story seeing it ÐŽ§as a symbol of her own lifeЎЁ (p.123) I would say that she feels herself rooted to the life she has created in the same way as the pear tree is rooted to the garden.

But there is quite a more explicit connection between Bertha and the pear tree in the sense of growing and flowering. As already stated even since the Middle Ages the pear tree has often been seen as an image for the female sexuality and also in Bliss it serves as such an image . The pear tree is described as a ÐŽ§tall, slender pear tree in fullest, richest bloom.ЎЁ It stands ÐŽ§perfect, as though becalmed against the jade-green skyЎЁ (p.122). It is spring ÐŽV ÐŽ§Yes, it was SpringЎЁ (p.123) ÐŽV and the pear tree is on peak of its flowering beauty during this time of the year when its branches blossom. Spring is the time when everything wakes up from an unflowering winter and when the most animal children are born. This marks the beginning of a new year and sym-bolically of a new beginning, a new life. Everything awakes and so Bertha is doing, too. Her Bliss, her happy child-like feelings when she wants ÐŽ§to bowl a hoop, to throw something up in the air and catch it againЎЁ (p.116) is not a form of madness but just an expression of her awakening sexual feelings.

Whereas she had never had any sexual desire for her husband throughout the years ÐŽV they were just like really ÐŽ§good palsЎЁ (p. 134) ÐŽV her desire for him grows big-ger and bigger during the dinner party ÐŽ§for the first time in her lifeЎЁ (p. 133) with the result that the only thing she is looking forward is the moment when the guests will leave, when ÐŽ§the lights will be outЎЁ and when she and Harry ÐŽ§will be alone together in the dark room ÐŽV the warm bed...ЎЁ (p. 133).

At that point she starts wondering whether her desire was it ÐŽ§what that feeling of bliss had been leading up toЎЁ (p. 134). Quite from the very beginning of Bliss and during the whole day she is possessed by this blissful feeling and somehow very ex-cited to the dinner party. Referring to Hankin she is in such an expectancy to the dinner party as if it was her wedding-feast. And I have to admit that there are some hints in this direction. During the evening Mug wonders why ÐŽ§the bridegroomЎЁ (p. 126) ÐŽV i.e. Harry ÐŽV has not appeared yet and does therefore compare Bertha to his bride. And she indeed does look like a bride by wearing a ÐŽ§white dress, a string of jade, green shoes and stockingЎЁ (p. 124) and is therefore as coloured as the pear tree that Bertha feels so connected to. From now on ÐŽV even if ÐŽ§it wasnÐŽ¦t intentionalЎЁ (p. 124) ÐŽV Bertha identifies herself with the pear tree. She wants to become as beautiful and furthermore ÐŽV not realising it so far ÐŽV as blossomed as the pear tree. As I mentioned above her sexual desire for Harry starts flowering throughout the story but in my opinion without any explicit reason.

Nevertheless her new friendship to Pearl, whom Bertha has ÐŽ§fallen in love withЎЁ as she always does ÐŽ§with beautiful womenЎЁ who have ÐŽ§something strange about themЎЁ (p. 121) might be an influence. For Bertha Pearl is someone ÐŽ§who means so muchЎЁ (p. 133) to her and from my point of view not in a sense of homosexual ten-dency but as someone who is very interesting for her. Pearl seems to be ÐŽ§wonder-fully frankЎЁ (p. 121) and as well a ÐŽ§new and mysteriousЎЁ (p. 127) find. Bertha does not only feel attracted by her but she has actually also find someone that she feels con-nected to, someone that might understand her and her desire. She feels that they do share something together, at least such a blissful feeling. Maybe



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