Something Childish But Very Natural: Plot Summary, Theme & Analysis

Instructor: Tina Miller

Tina earned an MFA in Creative Writing, has several published novels and short stories, and teaches English and writing.

Love is in the air in Katherine Mansfield's ''Something Childish but Very Natural'' when Henry meets Edna. Both young characters grapple with this new emotion; Henry, however, doesn't believe that such a love must simmer and grow. Are they fated to be together forever?

Ageless Love

Love is bliss; love is blind. Katherine Mansfield's ''Something Childish but Very Natural'' is a short story about the young love between Henry and Edna. Henry's eighteen, and Edna's sixteen. Their magnetic connection grows. Will it last? Find out in this summary and learn about some of the themes and literary elements.

Katherine Mansfield
Katherine Mansfield

Serendipitous Meeting

After situating his items on the train, Henry heads to the station bookstore. The train whistles, and Henry hustles, rushing through the train's doors. ''Henry was inside with the door slammed, in a carriage that...had not a trace of his straw hat...'' He's in the wrong car. He settles in anyway, soon addressing his seat mate. He must explain himself, his rushed behavior, his traveling without a hat in the evening, and his stares directed towards her.

As he speaks, he peers more closely at his seatmate, Edna. ''How beautiful she is! How simply beautiful she is!'' His heart is aflutter. When the train arrives at Edna's stop, Henry suggests, ''I must see you again.'' Edna discloses that she takes that train every weekday evening.

The wait is grueling, but on that next weekday as Henry awaits the train, Edna appears. They climb aboard the train. Their conversation is more robust than their initial discussion. They discuss ages and feelings. Edna recognizes that she enjoys him yet refuses to let him touch her hair.

Physical Boundaries

One Sunday, at a concert, Henry tries to touch her. She leans away. Henry's perplexed. Edna explains, ''Somehow I feel if once we...held each other's hands and kissed...I feel we wouldn't be free like we are--we'd be doing something secret. We wouldn't be children any more...'' She doesn't want to lose the innocence of their love.

On weekends, they jaunt around London. During one such excursion, Henry spots the perfect home for them. They dream of living in the home, and Henry is anxious to make it a reality. However, Edna is realistic. They have no money and they're young.

Henry and Edna discuss life.
Henry and Edna discuss life.

On another weekend, they meander in a field. Edna picks flowers while Henry dreams of their future. They rest in a field of heathers when a woman approaches them. The woman's sister has fallen ill, and she must rent her home. Edna and Henry check out the place. Once there, Edna discloses that she wanted him to kiss her all day. The feeling, however, is fleeting.

Time has passed, and in the end, Henry waits for Edna outside their new home. Instead, a telegram arrives. Henry opens it, and while we don't know of its contents, it leaves Henry still. ''The garden became full of shadow--they span a web of darkness over the cottage and the trees and Henry and the telegram.'' It is then that Henry realizes that his future and Edna's future might not look the same.

Foretelling and Flowers

Mansfield foreshadows such an ending. Early in the story, Henry reads a few lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem (titled the same as this short story). ''But in my sleep to you I fly, I'm always with you in my sleep...The world is all one's own, But then one wakes and where am I? All, all alone.'' Such lines are a precursor to what Henry will experience. He dreams of a love too perfect, a love that happens immediately. He dreams of Edna and the future of them. Those dreams do not parallel to his reality.

There's also symbolism, like the field of heathers. The heather symbolizes protection. Edna is protective of herself and of her future. While she loves Henry, she's also hesitant with her actions. The heather also symbolizes Henry's emotions. He admires Edna and cannot imagine feeling like this towards anyone. Edna gathers primroses, another symbolic flower. She's Henry's first rose, his first love. Such a flower also exemplifies their youth. They are young. Their futures will follow different paths, even if it seems unimaginable.

Field of Heather
Field of Heather

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