"Bliss" - from Bliss and Other Stories (1920)

Bertha Young at thirty is still 'young at heart' - both in her irrational happiness and in the lack of understanding she shows towards her husband and child. This tale charts the dinner party held by Bertha and her husband Harry who invite the Norman-Knights - "a very sound couple - he was about to start a theatre, and she was awfully keen on interior decoration," Eddie Warren and Pearl Fulton. The climax is a moment of revelation for Bertha: "for the first time in her life, Bertha Young desired her husband", only to discover that her husband is having an affair with one of the guests - Pearl. The story is full of luxury and sensual food imagery - "yellow pears, smooth as silk", a "shameless passion for the white flesh of the lobster", the colour of pistachio ices - "green and cold like the eyelids of Egyptian dancers". The Youngs are consumers both of food and commodities - Harry declares, "we only have a new coffee machine once a fortnight". The symbolism of the story centres on the pear tree in the garden, in the way that the aloe is the central imagery of "Prelude". The word 'pear' is inherent too in the name 'Pearl' and Bertha perceives the "lovely pear tree with its wide open blossoms as a symbol of her own life", an image that is echoed with later references to Bertha's "petals" and "jade beads".

Towards the end of the story, Bertha's insistent repetition of everything she says emphasizes her longing to repeat the past to achieve a reconciliation between herself and her husband: "What a pity someone does not play! She cried. 'What a pity someone does not play." And, "But now...ardently! Ardently!" She seems to be searching in her husband for the second half of her own self as her new-found yearning for her husband and her stiff social mask now feel the same emotion. The story ends with the same suspension of time with which so many of Mansfield's stories end. The childish wail, mirrors Bertha's naïve mind: "Oh, what is going to happen now?" Ten times in Mansfield's prose the end of the story is left open in this unresolved way leaving order permanently disrupted and an uneasy sense of calm.

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