On the surface level, “The Wind Blows” by Katherine Mansfield is a coming-of-age short story about an adolescent girl (Matilda) who wakes up one morning, nervous and tense. While the wind blows outside, she gets ready for her music lesson. Before she leaves she has a minor disagreement with her mother. She has her music lesson, goes home, meets her brother walks with him to the sea. They stand together and watch a ship in the water. Then she imagines a time in the future when she and her brother will be leaving their home on a ship like this one.
(The ship is carrying coal. Mansfield uses the word ‘coal hulk’. Interestingly, these ships used to be used as prisons, as well as for freight.)
On the metaphorical level, the wind is an extended metaphor for the feelings of adolescence. It’s not easy to tell whether Katherine Mansfield is empathetic to the tumultuous feelings of adolescence, or if she’s poking fun. She has written “The Wind Blows” in a melodramatic tone.
Download the full text of “The Wind Blows” as a document. Or as a PDF.
STORYWORLD OF “THE WIND BLOWS”
Continue reading “The Wind Blows by Katherine Mansfield”
I wrote “Étude” as an homage to Katherine Mansfield, guided by her coming-of-age short story about the tumultuous emotions of adolescence: “The Wind Blows”.
I wrote a short story about a teacher-student crush because after teaching at a girls’ high school in my twenties, I knew exactly how ‘decent’ teachers deal with crushes. I hadn’t seen reality reflected in entertainment. I see films and TV shows where good-looking male teachers keep girls behind after class, alone, closing the classroom door. These fictional teachers are doing every single thing wrong, yet their characters are coded as behaving in a decent manner. No good teacher deals with a teacher-student crush by keeping a student back after class, alone, with the door closed. If a teacher ever does that to you, they hope to encourage the infatuation.
Happily, the vast majority of teachers are very decent people. Here’s what would most likely happen, written under the spell of Katherine Mansfield, with extra musical flourishes…
She awakes to music – tinny, chattery beats. Jitter-jitter-jitter, her mobile phone scuttles across the study desk, past the spiral-bound history of Renaissance Composers and jump! A suicide onto the bedroom floor. An omen. Something disastrous is about to happen. Today is performance day! She knows it’s just a mock. But oh how the entire world depends on it…
She ties a regulation maroon elastic band around her hair, securing it at the back of her head in one regulation bunch. She hates her hair like this. She’ll meet one of her teachers in ten years’ time and he’ll say, ‘Why Cadence, how modern and original you look!’ and she will reply through heavy-lidded eyes, ‘This – this is the extent to which you bastards stifled my individuality.’ She does not dare glance at herself in the mirror. She’ll pretend she is somebody else today. Continue reading “Étude a Short Story by Lynley Stace”
“A Dill Pickle” is a 1917 short story by Katherine Mansfield. Over the course of a single cafe scene, a woman meets up with a former beau. This is a feminist story about how men and women tend to communicate, and illuminates Mansfield’s deep interest in psychology.
Download full text of “A Dill Pickle” by Katherine Mansfield (pdf)
WHAT HAPPENS IN “A DILL PICKLE”
A man and woman meet after six years apart. It is revealed that they used to be prospective lovers/beaus. The entire story is a conversation between them, and the reader sees (hopefully) that this partnership is doomed. A modern reader can probably put names to some of the psychological tricks going down. Continue reading “A Dill Pickle by Katherine Mansfield”
Altar — the consecrated place that holds the witch’s implements — a table, bench, tree stump or rock. Some traditions recommend that the alter be circular, and that it stand within a magic circle, drawn on the ground.
Amulet — needles and pins are classic amulets of evil. Sulfur and gum arabic are also highly recommended by experienced jinxers. Graveyard dust and coffin nails are good for causing harm.
Athame (or athalme) — a black handled, double edged dagger with a magnetised blade. It represents the witch’s power and is used in rituals. It’s a clear phallic symbol. The act of plunging it into the Chalice represents the union of the male and female principles. Continue reading “A Glossary of Witch Words”
There’s a really old storytelling trope: A trickster girl — and it is usually a girl — overcomes an Opponent with word play rather than physical tousle. Oftentimes the ‘word play’ is simply guessing the opponent’s real name.
Contains Breaking Bad spoilers. But hopefully you’ve already seen that if you wanted to. Continue reading “I Know Your True Name Trope”
“The Fly” is a short story by Katherine Mansfield, published 1922.
Mansfield’s short stories are out of copyright and available at various places online. Download “The Fly”by Katherine Mansfield as a document.
Mansfield wrote “The Fly” in February 1922 as she was finding her TB treatment debilitating. She died in January of 1923, soon after its publication. Thirty-four seems young to be contemplating old age, and to write about elderly character with any sort of gravitas, but it’s likely Mansfield always had empathy for the elderly. It’s likely she knew she would die young. For one thing, she’d faced plague. The Beauchamp family escaped central Wellington to live in Karori, probably to evade the bacterial infections which were highly dangerous to Wellingtonians at the turn of the 20th century. Aside from that, Mansfield grew up with weak lungs. The family doctor told her family (if not Mansfield herself?) that she was a case of tuberculosis waiting to happen. Continue reading “The Fly by Katherine Mansfield”
“Reunion” is a short story by John Cheever, first published 1962 in The New Yorker. You can listen to it read by Richard Ford.
STORYWORLD OF REUNION
As Richard Ford says, Grand Central Station is a place where anything could happen — any two people could meet.
The story is set in the 1950s or 60s, the heyday of ‘the perfect nuclear family’. It was a big deal back then not to have a father. Divorce was rare. Women were not financially supported. It is highly probable the boy was the only child in his class without a father at home. This would add to the pain of missing him.
COMPACT STORY FORM
“Reunion” is a compact short story of around 1000 words. Most of Cheever’s stories are much longer than this one. The reader deduces a lot:
- The father has probably been kicked out of ‘the club’ and couldn’t take his son there even if he wanted to.
- His terrible personality is the reason the narrator’s mother divorced him in the first place.
- The father is showing off to the son, probably more than he usually does, because of the limited time he has with his boy.
- He has a white collar job, and no doubt treats his co-workers and secretary in the same way. I’m imagining he works on Madison Avenue, in the Madmen world.
- I imagine the father has some kind of personality disorder which gives him the ability to turn off empathy at will.
Cheever partly achieves compactness by:
- Telling rather than always showing. The first paragraph is an excellent example of that.
- Omitting the narrator’s reactions, focusing only on the father’s mesmerising horribleness. We only get the narrator’s reaction in the final sentence when it becomes clear he has decided not to see his father again (perhaps only later, after processing events).
Continue reading “Reunion by John Cheever Short Story”