Bliss

by

Katherine Mansfield

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Moonlight Symbol Analysis

Moonlight Symbol Icon

Moonlight represents transformation and illusion in the story. Bertha sees the moon rising when she is looking out at the pear tree before the dinner party and associates this with the transformative potential of the evening, which she believes will bring about some change in her life and lead to the fulfilment of her hidden desire for Pearl Fulton. The moon continues to have a transformative effect over the evening: when Eddie Warren arrives, he complains that the moonlight has made his socks whiter and transformed his taxi driver into a “sinister” and “timeless” figure whom Eddie was afraid would kidnap him in an “eternal taxi.” Pearl is also associated with the moon: dressed all in silver, she has a pearl-like appearance reflective of her name and similar to the white glow of the moon. This represents the idea that Pearl herself has had a transformative effect upon Bertha’s life, just as the moon has transformed the night outside and made ordinary things seem mysterious and extraordinary. It is Pearl’s presence which is responsible for Bertha’s feeling of “bliss,” which has transformed the world around her and made her feel “tender” towards everything and everyone. However, just as the moonlight has had an artificial effect upon the appearance of the taxi driver and made him appear like an “eternal” creature, Pearl’s affinity with how Bertha feels also proves to be an illusion. It is revealed that Pearl is, in fact, having an affair with Bertha’s husband Harry. As such, it is likely that her friendliness towards Bertha is a means to allow Pearl to spend time with Harry while deflecting suspicion.

Moonlight Quotes in Bliss

The Bliss quotes below all refer to the symbol of Moonlight. 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

And then Miss Fulton, all in silver, with a silver fillet binding her pale blond hair, came in smiling, her head a little on one side. “Am I late?”

“No, not at all,” said Bertha. “Come along.” And she took her arm and they moved into the dining-room. What was there in the touch of that cool arm that could fan—fan—start blazing – blazing – the fire of bliss that Bertha did not know what to do with. Miss Fulton did not look at her; but then she seldom did look at people directly… But Bertha knew, suddenly, as if the longest, most intimate look had passed between them—as if they had said to each other: “You, too”—that Pearl Fulton, stirring the beautiful red soup in the grey plate, was feeling just what she was feeling.

Related Characters: Bertha Young (speaker), Pearl Fulton (speaker)
Related Symbols: Moonlight
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

At that moment Miss Fulton “gave the sign.”

“Have you a garden?” said the cool, sleepy voice. This was so exquisite on her part that all Bertha could do was to obey. She crossed the room, pulled the curtains apart, and opened those long windows. “There!” she breathed. And the two women stood side by side looking at the slender, flowering tree. Although it was so still it seemed, like the flame of a candle, to stretch up, to point, to quiver in the bright air, to grow taller and taller as they gazed—almost to touch the rim of the round, silver moon. How long did they stand there? Both, as it were, caught in that circle of unearthly light, understanding each other perfectly, creatures of another world, and wondering what they were to do in this one with all this blissful treasure that burned in their bosoms and dropped, in silver flowers, from their hair and hands.

Related Characters: Bertha Young (speaker), Pearl Fulton (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Pear Tree, Moonlight
Page Number: 152-153
Explanation and Analysis:

While he looked it up she turned her head towards the hall. And she saw . . . Harry with Miss Fulton's coat in his arms and Miss Fulton with her back turned to him and her head bent. He tossed the coat away, put his hands on her shoulders and turned her violently to him. His lips said: “I adore you,” and Miss Fulton laid her moonbeam fingers on his cheeks and smiled her sleepy smile. Harry's nostrils quivered; his lips curled back in a hideous grin while he whispered: “To-morrow,” and with her eyelids Miss Fulton said: “Yes.”

“Here it is,” said Eddie. “‘Why Must it Always be Tomato Soup?’ So deeply true, don't you feel? Tomato soup is so dreadfully eternal.”

“If you prefer,” said Harry's voice, very loud, from the hall, “I can phone you a cab to come to the door.”

Related Characters: Harry Young (speaker), Eddie Warren (speaker), Bertha Young, Pearl Fulton
Related Symbols: Moonlight
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:
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Moonlight Symbol Timeline in Bliss

The timeline below shows where the symbol Moonlight appears in Bliss. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Bliss
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
...outside with the green dusk and the white petals of the pear tree under the moon. (full context)
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
...that he could not get the driver to stop the cab and that, in the moonlight, the driver looked sinister and “bizarre.” He says that he saw himself being driven away... (full context)
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
...and her thoughts keep on returning to the image of the pear tree in the moonlight. She thinks about these things as she watches Pearl peel an orange and her fingers... (full context)
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Constraint Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
...window and the two women stand and look out at the pear tree under the moon. Bertha thinks the tree looks like a flame, stretching up into the sky, and almost... (full context)
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Constraint Theme Icon
...a connection; bathed in the “circle of unearthly light” coming through the window from the moon. She feels that they are like “creatures” from a different world and that both are... (full context)
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
...out at the pear tree, which is as “lovely” and “still” as ever under the moon. (full context)