Katherine Mansfield

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Themes and Colors
Sexuality and Desire Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Constraint Theme Icon
Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Bliss, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Sexuality and Desire

Katherine Mansfield’s short story “Bliss” chronicles a day in the life of thirty-year-old Bertha Young. Bertha’s feeling of “bliss” in the story comes from her attraction to Pearl Fulton, a woman she has recently become friends with. Although Bertha is married, she comes across as sexually naïve and has never “desired” her husband. Not coincidentally, she feels sexually attracted to him “for the first time in her life” on the night of the…

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Women’s Roles and Social Constraint

A large part of the narrative tension in “Bliss” derives from the fact that Bertha Young, the thirty-year-old protagonist, feels a great sense of joy that she wishes to express. However, the constraints of the society in which she lives, and the rigid constraints placed on women in this society in particular, prevent Bertha from expressing her titular “bliss.” Mansfield extends her argument against the repression of homosexuality to show how Betha’s entire life…

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Aesthetics, Appearance, and Performance

“Bliss” is written in a Modernist style, reflected in the focus on aesthetics throughout the story. Bertha herself is preoccupied with external appearances. Although this may come across as shallow, Bertha’s desire to make things beautiful is an attempt to express her feeling of “bliss.” Bertha is also interested in interpreting the appearance of others; as she watches guests interact at her dinner party, Bertha makes assumptions about their internal states based on their outward…

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