Mr. and Mrs. Dove by Katherine Mansfield: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

Not all proposal stories are love stories. You can see this in 'Mr. and Mrs. Dove' by Katherine Mansfield. In this lesson you will read a summary and look at the characters.

Not a Love Story

When you read a story involving a marriage proposal, what do you expect to happen? In a love story, proposals end happily and the couple are in love and get engaged and then married. However, not all stories are love stories. This is clearly illustrated by Katherine Mansfield's short story 'Mr. and Mrs. Dove.' It centers around a marriage proposal, but the characters are not equally in love. Mansfield subverts, or goes against, the reader's initial expectations about the characters' relationship.

Preparing to Propose

The story opens on Reginald as he gets ready in front of a mirror. He is about to leave to propose to Anne, a woman he is madly in love with. Reggie is extremely nervous and thinks to himself that he would not be surprised if she said no. As he gets ready he thinks about his life. We learn that he is a poor fruit farmer in Rhodesia and he is leaving London tomorrow to go back to his farm. This is why he wants to propose tonight since he doesn't know when he will be back in London.

He also thinks about Anne and ''her position, her father's wealth, the fact that she was an only child and far and away the most popular girl in the neighborhood...her beauty…'' He regards her very highly and believes she is above him in every way, which is one reason he is so nervous.

On his way out the door, he runs into his mother, whom he calls 'mater.' He refers to her internally as ''a grim parent.'' She is a single mother and his only family since she broke ties with all her other family before he was old enough to know them.

On to Anne

Reggie literally runs away from his mother and heads to Anne's house, arriving to find that she is the only one home. He tells her he has come to say goodbye since he is leaving tomorrow. She laughs and then immediately apologizes. She is constantly laughing at him, even in serious situations such as this one. Neither of them seems to know why she does it.

The two go in to see her doves. Anne points out how one, whom she calls Mrs. Dove, always struts in front of the other, 'laughing' and walking quickly. Mr. Dove follows behind her in a much more serious manner, always going wherever Mrs. Dove wants to go.

One dove always follows the other.

As they watch the birds, Reggie asks if Anne could ever care for him, and she tells him no, not that way. She says she is fond of him, but she does not love him, and she could never marry a man that she laughs at. She even draws a parallel to the doves, saying in a marriage one person should not always be following behind.

As you might expect, Reggie tries to leave after this, but Anne won't let him. She tells him she cannot let him leave while he is upset. He gets about halfway across the lawn and she coos at him, like a dove, and calls him back. This explicitly reinforces the parallel to her doves: Reggie is Mr. Dove, always following Anne wherever she wants to go, doing what she wants him to do.

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