Mansfield's fiction deals with two sorts of time: internal memory and chronological clocks. Time is woven intricately into the structure of the stories, symbolising the relationship between the individual and the outside world. The critic Rene Godenne has counted more than 200 markers of time in Mansfield's fiction, most frequently located at the very beginning of the story: "Six o'clock" ("An Indiscreet Journey"); "after six years, she saw him again" ("A Dill Pickle"); "Eight o'clock in the morning" ("Pictures"). It is an attempt to pinpoint a particular incident in a life that has no apparent organisation and is just a series of moments. By immersing oneself in the present, the onset of time and therefore death is avoided.
The repeated use of Mansfield of "... " (ellipsis) echoes the beating of a clock or the beating of a heart suggesting the passing of time. The iambic pentameter of "An Indiscreet Journey": "Strange impulsive woman! My heart began to beat... Venez vite, vite!" These are the indiscreet sounds of words, blurred noises that when heard as a baby in the womb, start to structure time for us. Time for Mansfield is structured by language, as in "Prelude" when, "every few minutes, one of the children asked him the question". The twelve-fold form echoes the months of the year and hours in the day thus the passing of time and the inevitable end that it will bring to all tangible things. "Prelude", "At the Bay" and "The Garden Party" lend a rigid continuity of structure in order to counteract the static and ephemeral nature of a 'moment' emphasising the fight between wanting to capture a 'feeling of bliss' and a fight against reality.
A characteristic of Mansfield's prose is the speed with which the readers' sympathies are engaged in each separate story, such as "The Doll's House" which opens with: "When dear old Mrs Hay went back into town..." Already Mrs Hay is known to us 'dearly' and thus Mansfield has speeded up to process of time - represented by getting to know someone and compression of emotion in the reader as well as the characters. The readers' imagination is heightened to move more quickly and the importance to detail and symbols is picked up quicker.
The stories are based around a melange of past, present and future, a mixture of tenses that is as Freud stated, "strung together on the thread of the wish that runs through them". There is a desire in "Something Childish but Natural", to return to childhood. London "became their playground". We have all been children, can all understand this emotion and it is this that Mansfield hits a universal appreciation. She reaches back into the past and breathes life into the characters we all met there as though they are all simply prisoners in time. The relationship between fantasy and time is very important; Freud recognised it as a 'datemark.' We move through words or syntax to pass through time and reach the fulfilment of desire, suggesting the way time is indeed structured by language. In "Prelude", time "dissolved like bubbles".
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