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Katherine Mansfield: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Katherine Mansfield was a short story writer who wrote several short story collections. In this lesson, we will learn about Katherine Mansfield's life and her work.

Meet Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield is remembered for her short stories and poems. Considered a modernist, Katherine Mansfield wrote several short story collections with some of her most popular stories being The Garden Party, A Dill Pickle, Mr and Mrs Dove, and The Fly. Some consider her one of the best short story writers of all time. In this lesson, we will learn about Katherine Mansfield's life and her career.

Portrait of Katherine Mansfield
katherine

Early Life and Education

Katherine Mansfield was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1888. Mansfield was the middle child, with two older and two younger siblings. As a teenager, she had a few stories published in her high school's magazine.

In 1903, she and her sisters were enrolled at the Queen's College in London, England. Katherine perfected her cello skills and worked as an editor for the school's newspaper. While she finished her education, she traveled across Europe, and in 1906, she went home to New Zealand for several years before returning to London. In London, she had an affair with a man named Garnet Trowell, and she became pregnant; however, she then married George Charles Bowden. Garnet's family did not approve of their relationship and her mother was furious with her, so Katherine was sent to a spa in Germany. During her stay, she miscarried, and when returned to London again in 1910, she had completely changed.

Career

In 1910, Katherine Mansfield began writing more regularly, and her work was being published. Editor John Middleton Murry rejected a story she sent into the magazine Rhythm, so she sent him her story The Woman at the Store, which he accepted. Katherine Mansfield and John Murry engaged in a romantic relationship after the submission of this story. The two were married in 1918, just after Katherine's divorce from Bowden was finalized. During this time, Mansfield published several stories, including How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped, A Dill Pickle, and Millie. Due to her continuous affairs with other men and women, her relationship with Murry was very unstable, and they continuously separated and reunited, although they never divorced.

Mansfield's health began to decline just as her work started receiving international attention. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1917. Despite her health, she published two major collections, Bliss in 1920, and The Garden Party in 1922.

During her writing career, Mansfield was incredibly inspired by the works of Oscar Wilde and Anton Chekhov. Her many friends included Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence, both of whom helped her get published. At the height of her career, she was considered a modernist, a writer during this time period who went against traditional literary traditions.

Literary modernism was a literary movement that reacted to the industrialization of the world. Writers in this movement moved away from romantic ideals in favor of sparse details, first person point of view, stream of consciousness, and a close look at the harsh realities of the world. Many of Mansfield's short stories, including the ones briefly covered in this lesson, follow these principles.

Great Short Stories

Let's take a moment to learn about a few of her short stories The Garden Party, A Dill Pickle, Mr and Mrs Dove, and The Fly.

The Garden Party

The Garden Party was published in 1922, in her collection titled with the same name. It is about a wealthy family holding a garden party and the death of their neighbor who is not wealthy. The story is from the perspective of a little girl named Laura and the major themes are class, death, life, and illusion vs. reality.

A Dill Pickle

A Dill Pickle was published in 1917 in New Age. It is also featured in her short story collection Bliss. The story is about two lovers who meet at a café after many years. The woman turns about to be in a much better financial status than the man.

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