A Suburban Fairy Tale by Katherine Mansfield
In A Suburban Fairy Tale by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of domesticity, commitment, sacrifice, communication, love, happiness, and connection. Taken from her Something Childish and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Mansfield may be exploring the theme of domesticity. The B’s are all sitting in their dining room cum living room having breakfast. Mr B is relieved that the days of rationing are behind them and the reader senses that Mr B is prepared to splash out. Particularly when it comes to the family diet. Mrs B on the other hand understands Mr B’s intentions but she has made a commitment to the butcher to get sirloin for the weekend. While Mr B wanted Scotch hares. This may be significant as the fact that rationing has stopped suggests that those affected can begin to return to a normal life. It may also be significant that Mr B tried for four years to join the army but couldn’t. If anything Mr B was prepared to sacrifice his life for his country despite having a young family. This shows true commitment.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Mr and Mrs B don’t appear to be too strict when it comes to Little B. He is allowed to play at the table and to hide himself behind the curtains at the window. Though some critics might suggest that Mr and Mrs B are too busy reading and talking to one another to keep an eye on Little B this is unlikely. If anything the B family are a loving family who know how to communicate with one another. Which is an interesting point as Mansfield may be suggesting that life in the suburbs, which would have been new at the time the story was written, can be a fairy tale. It is also noticeable that not one word of scorn is used by any of the characters. If anything all three characters are happy. The reader left suspecting that the end of the war and the end of rationing has helped.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The house itself represents a real home with a real family living in it. It’s not too big yet it is not small either. It is the ideal size for a small family and is possibly has two or three bedrooms. Just perfect for the needs of the B family. The Scotch hare could represent prosperity. The war is over and things are improving for people. No longer do people have to rely on ration books. The sparrows might symbolise imagination and how healthy Little B’s mind is. The fact that Mr and Mrs B see the sparrows as human (little boys) for a moment places an emphasis on the fairy tale that is possible in suburbia. Prior to suburbia being built many people lived in the centre of London in tenement houses. With the help of the government and the fact that some people managed to get good jobs, suburbia was built.
The end of the story is interesting as there is a sense of unity or connection among the B family. Again this may be part of the fairy tale. When everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. There is no arguing or quarrelling and everyone is happy. Despite the heat from the house escaping outside when the window is briefly opened. Mrs B doesn’t mind. If anything everything about the setting is perfect which may be Mansfield’s way of suggesting that a perfect life can be found in suburbia. The opportunity for happiness is there if one only looks. In general there are possibly happy times ahead for a large amount of people. They have their own housing. The war is over and the mood is generally more upbeat. People feel freer than they have for a long time or since the war began and the future looks brighter for most people. Particularly those who have moved to the suburbs and who are only a short train journey away from work. In reality life may very well be idyllic if not like a fairy tale. Unfortunately the fairy tale would end with the arrival of the Second World War.