"Something Childish But Very Natural"

"Something Childish But Very Natural" - from Something Childish (1924)

The story centres on the idyllic love affair of two teenagers - Henry and Edna - who meet on a train and after clumsy preliminaries, fall in love. A period of time passes and the couple move to a cottage in the country, remote from sullied reality and worldly associations. The parallel with the Garden of Eden is at times overpowering. The trees in the garden of the cottage are apple trees and a telegram that Henry thinks has 'one of those snakes inside it that fly up at you.' The innocent love between Henry and Edna, her name being practically an anagram of Eden, has to be protected by the lovers as it their happiness is beset on all sides by danger, primarily other people: "It's people that make things so - silly. As long as you can keep away from them you're safe and you're happy." Edna extends this concept to forbidding Henry to touch her because innocence - equated with happiness - is lost through physical contact: "we wouldn't be children any more." Edna is associated with gardens - she has eyebrows like "feathers" and "marigold hair" to which Henry is drawn to with eyes like "two drunken bees"; their relationship is as natural as "trees or birds or clouds". Mansfield seems to state that it is only in the imagination that this type of love can flourish, as reality is too brutal to care for it. Harry is overcome by the lovers' escape into fiction, asking: "Are we a dream?"

The ending is said by many to be the most ineffective part of the story and it is highly ambiguous. Nothing is what it seems to be. One of Mansfield's favourite images, a "big white moth" turns out to be a "little girl in a pinafore" and can be read as Henry's dream interpretation of Edna. Mansfield uses the symbol of the moth as a symbol of an innocent and helpless creature being drawn to a false light in the way that moths are attracted to electric lights in thinking that they are the sun. Similarly, the telegram turns out to be "just folded paper", a red herring containing no meaningful message. The only way to avoid the search of light, it seems, is death, a state to which Henry seems to have been taken by the end, frozen in existence: "The garden became full of shadows - they spun a web of darkness over the cottage and the trees and Henry and the telegram. But Henry did not move."

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.