An Indiscreet Journey: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

'An Indiscreet Journey' is a 1915 short story by Katherine Mansfield. Like many of her stories, it serves as an illustration of daily life during the time period surrounding World War I.

How This Story Works

Katherine Mansfield's writing style often leaves the reader wondering what actually happened in the story, perhaps even needing to reread in order to figure it out. If this happens when you read 'An Indiscreet Journey,' you are not alone. It may help to realize that the author is not giving us a clear idea of a theme, or purpose, other than to hint at general concerns of people living in Europe during the first world war.

The journey that the woman makes to see her lover is the story, and all of the barriers she encounters serve to build a narrative around her goal. You may have had trouble realizing that the Little Corporal is the lover of the narrator on a first reading, because we are told this through a series of hints: placing his hand over hers, catching her passport, or watching out for her in the rough atmosphere of the cafe. This lesson will take a look at the summary of this short story and the analysis of it.

Summary

A woman from England is going into the war zone to meet her lover. The trip is disguised as a visit to her aunt and uncle, who are playing these parts to make the meeting possible. She encounters two old women; one is friendly and the other seems to suspect the protagonist has a secret reason for being in France.

'It is very difficult to get into X at present, to pass the station. . . Ah, such an affair. One must sign one's name and state one's business.'

After she reaches her destination, the narrator and her Little Corporal spend time in an inn, presumably the intimate time for which the protagonist traveled on this strange journey. They also frequent a cafe where soldiers are drinking and hanging around.

Much conversation takes place in the cafe
cafe

When the couple gets into a conversation with a group of soldiers, the talk turns to the drinking habits of the English.

''In England,' said the blue-eyed soldier, 'you drink whiskey with your meals. N'est-ce pas, mademoiselle? A little glass of whiskey neat before eating. Whiskey and soda with your bifteks, and after, more whiskey with hot water and lemon.''

English whiskey is said to be inferior to French Mirabelle
English whiskey

But the French soldiers claim that whiskey cannot compare to the drink called Mirabelle. They set out to prove it, although the hour is late, and the finding of the Mirabelle proves to be the end of the story. It is pronounced 'excellent' and the tale comes to an end.

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