Themes from her childhood in the short stories of Katherine Mansfield



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Of the eighty-eight stories which make up the content of Katherine Mansfield's work, those in which she utilized themes from her New Zealand childhood are the stories which are responsible for the significant place she holds in modern literature. As an adolescent. Miss Mansfield repudiated her family, her associates, and her birthplace. She chose to live in England because she thought she would find there the cultural surroundings she believed she needed. During the early period of Katherine Mansfield's writing career, her work displays the effects of various influences upon her as well as her own experiments with literary techniques. These stories exhibit her talent for satire, description, and dialogue; they are a showcase for her craftsmanship, but most of them do not have the elements of great art. There are a few stories she wrote in the middle period of her short life in which she did draw upon her childhood background. In these stories the characterization and emotion seem particularly genuine. But it was not until after the death of her young brother that Katherine Mansfield began to think of New Zealand with nostalgia and affection. Because she believed she owed It to her brother to write about childhood experiences which they had shared, she wrote the stories for which she has received the most acclaim. In his Introduction to Katherine Mansfield's collected works, the author’s husband, John Middleton Murry, suggested that the best criticism of her work came from the printer who set In type her memorable New Zealand story, "Prelude"; he had, supposedly, remarked, "My! But these kids are real!" In the last phase of her development as a writer, Katherine Mansfield revealed a changed attitude toward the materials she used from her early life. Her own personal disappointments, grief, and serious Illness, tended to help her attain a mature understanding of her parents as well as an intense longing for her native land. The use she made of these early materials, after she had achieved maturity, resulted In the classic short stories, poetic and timeless, of her New Zealand childhood.