‘Bliss’ by Katherine Mansfield

A story for May

Although Bertha Young was thirty she still had moments like this when she wanted to run instead of walk, to take dancing steps on and off the pavement, to bowl a hoop, to throw something up in the air and catch it again, or to stand still and laugh at–nothing–at nothing, simply.

The pure joy captured here in the beginning, and throughout the piece, is spellbinding, especially as later it’s replaced with a darker set of feelings.
 
At the heart of the story is “a tall, slender pear tree in fullest, richest bloom; it stood perfect, as though becalmed against the jade-green sky.”  I love short stories that take an image and hold it up to the light, show it from different angles, and allow it to take on different meanings as the narrative progresses. The tree is initially a symbol of the springtime’s abundance, then of youth, of hidden desires, and finally of loss and the passage of time.

First published in the English Review (1918), now in Selected Stories, Oxford World’s Classics, 2002, and other Mansfield collections, available online here

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