Bliss

by

Katherine Mansfield

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The Pear Tree Symbol Analysis

The Pear Tree Symbol Icon

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 Bliss quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Pear Tree. 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:

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.

Related Characters: Bertha Young (speaker), Harry Young
Related Symbols: The Pear Tree
Page Number: 147-148
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:

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:
Get the entire Bliss LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bliss PDF

The Pear Tree Symbol Timeline in Bliss

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Pear Tree 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
...drawing room looks out over the garden. Bertha looks out of the window at the pear tree on the lawn and admires it against the dusky, “jade-green” sky. She notices that all... (full context)
Women’s Roles and Social Constraint Theme Icon
...she is “too happy.” Closing her eyes, she seems to see a vision of the pear tree and thinks that it is a “symbol of her own life” with all its blossoms... (full context)
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
...outfit matches the garden 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
...seems good to her 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... (full context)
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Constraint Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
...takes Pearl to the 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... (full context)
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Constraint Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
...and as Pearl takes leave of Bertha, she presses Bertha’s hand and says: “Your lovely pear tree .” Bertha watches them leave and thinks that Eddie and Pearl look like the grey... (full context)
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
...the window. She wonders what is going to happen next and looks out at the pear tree , which is as “lovely” and “still” as ever under the moon. (full context)