The pear tree in “Bliss” symbolizes Bertha’s attraction to Pearl Fulton, a friend she has invited to her dinner party. The tree also represents hidden desire more generally throughout the story. Bertha associates the pear tree with the sensation of “bliss” that she feels as she is preparing for the party that Pearl will attend. Looking at the tree through a window, Bertha feels that it is a “symbol of her own life” and that its “wide open blossoms” represent the possibility of change, which is available to her if she is able to break away from social convention and admit her attraction to, or form a romantic connection with, Pearl. The tree further represents Bertha’s internal state as its colors in the moonlight are the same colors that Bertha has chosen to wear that evening. Because the tree is outside and separated from Bertha by the window, however, it comes to reflect a desire outside the realm of domesticity and upper middle-class conventionality. Using a tree as a symbol of desire also corresponds with the Tree of Life from the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, in which Adam and Eve are barred from eating the fruit from this tree and yet do so anyway—disobeying God yet gaining knowledge; Bertha, by contrast, seems to deny or repress her own knowledge of her genuine emotional state (that is, her love for Pearl). During the dinner party, Bertha and Pearl stand and look through the window at the pear tree together. To Bertha, this moment represents their unspoken connection and suggests to her that Pearl is feeling the same way that she is feeling. In this moment, to Bertha, the pear tree looks like a huge flaming candle in the light from the moon and this symbolizes the strength of Bertha’s desire.
The Pear Tree Quotes in Bliss
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. . . .
And she seemed to see on her eyelids the lovely pear tree with its wide open blossoms as a symbol of her own life. Really—really—she had everything. She was young. Harry and she were as much in love as ever, and they got on together splendidly and were really good pals. She had an adorable baby. They didn’t have to worry, about money. . .
“I'm absurd. Absurd!” She sat up; but she felt quite dizzy, quite drunk. It must have been the spring. Yes, it was the spring. Now she was so tired she could not drag herself upstairs to dress. A white dress, a string of jade beads, green shoes and stockings. It wasn't intentional. She had thought of this scheme hours before she stood at the drawing-room window.
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.
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.