Bliss

by

Katherine Mansfield

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Cats Symbol Icon

The appearance of cats in the story imbue Bertha’s joy with a sense of foreboding and symbolize the harmful nature of dishonesty—both to others, and to oneself. While looking out over her garden at the pear tree, Bertha sees two cats crossing the lawn: first a grey one and then a black one who is like “his shadow.” Although Bertha has been contemplating the pear tree as a symbol of the possibility of joy in her own life, the sudden appearance of the two cats beneath the tree makes her “shiver” and she thinks: “what creepy things cats are.” The idea of the black “shadow,” underneath the image of Bertha’s “bliss” foreshadows the idea that things are not quite as they appear in the story and that Bertha’s desire for joy will not come to fruition. The two cats creeping across the lawn also reflects Harry and Pearl’s behavior; sneaking about in order to have an affair. The fact that the cats give Bertha a shiver, although she does not know why, suggests that Bertha does not fully understand her own motives. This is corroborated by the fact that Bertha feels that her attraction to Pearl is platonic and otherworldly, rather than sexual, reflecting Bertha’s sexual naivety and lack of self-knowledge more generally.

Cats Quotes in Bliss

The Bliss quotes below all refer to the symbol of Cats. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Bliss published in 1991.
Bliss Quotes

The windows of the drawing-room opened on to a balcony overlooking the garden. At the far end, against the wall, there was a tall, slender pear tree in fullest, richest bloom; it stood perfect, as though becalmed against the jade-green sky. Bertha couldn't help feeling, even from this distance, that it had not a single bud or a faded petal. Down below, in the garden beds, the red and yellow tulips, heavy with flowers, seemed to lean upon the dusk. A grey cat, dragging its belly, crept across the lawn, and a black one, its shadow, trailed after. The sight of them, so intent and so quick, gave Bertha a curious shiver. “What creepy things cats are!” she stammered, and she turned away from the window and began walking up and down. . . .

Related Characters: Bertha Young (speaker), Pearl Fulton
Related Symbols: The Pear Tree, Cats
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

Miss Fulton held her hand a moment longer. “Your lovely pear tree!” she murmured. And then she was gone, with Eddie following, like the black cat following the grey cat.

“I'll shut up shop,” said Harry, extravagantly cool and collected.

“Your lovely pear tree—pear tree—pear tree!” Bertha simply ran over to the long windows.

“Oh, what is going to happen now?” she cried.

But the pear tree was as lovely as ever and as full of flower and as still.

Related Characters: Bertha Young (speaker), Pearl Fulton (speaker), Harry Young (speaker), Eddie Warren
Related Symbols: The Pear Tree, Cats
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
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Bliss PDF

Cats Symbol Timeline in Bliss

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cats appears in Bliss. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Bliss
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Constraint Theme Icon
...and looks down at the flowerbeds underneath it. In this flowerbed, she sees a grey cat slinking across the lawn, followed by a black cat. This image makes Bertha shudder. (full context)
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Constraint Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
...tree.” Bertha watches them leave and thinks that Eddie and Pearl look like the grey cat and the black cat that she saw creeping across the lawn that evening. (full context)