An Indiscreet Journey by Katherine Mansfield
In An Indiscreet Journey by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of escape, adventure, excitement, innocence and fear. Taken from her Something Childish and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Mansfield may be exploring the theme of escape. The narrator is caught in a boarding house she does not like or trust. This could be significant as WWI is happening and not everybody can be trusted. Particularly the lady of the house. The adventure that he narrator sets out on is both interesting and confusing. She admires the soldiers on the train but at the same time has sympathy for those who are injured. It is as though she knows the severity of war. Though the narrator is apprehensive about seeing her aunt and uncle (who may not be her aunt and uncle) she is still nonetheless excited by the life she sees around her on the train. It is a world that is alien to her though at the same time very real with so many causalities at the train station.
There is also a sense that the narrator is somewhat afraid on her journey. She is surrounded by soldiers and people she does not know. It is also interesting that at no stage doe the soldiers on the train show any fear. They are going into battle yet they are not afraid. It is as though they are trying to enjoy the last moments of their freedom. Something that is noticeable in Town X, Y and Z. When the narrator meets three soldiers who want to bring her to a bar to try Mirabelle. One of the soldiers, the corporal is particularly friendly to the narrator and they seem to get on well. Considering that the corporal is heading to the front line. He may be just attempting to enjoy himself one more time before he encounters the atrocities of war. Not knowing if he will survive or not. The narrator is also not afraid to drink with the three soldiers. The fear she had on the train has left her most likely because she knows she is near her aunt and uncles home.
The fact that the story as written in 1915 might also be important as it was the second year of WWI. A war that was supposed to last a few months. This might explain why so many of the soldiers on the train and in the bar and are so happy. They do not realise that the war would last for another three years and cost millions of lives while at the same time buckling Europe. One would not think that the men on the train were prepared for war because of their attitude. Neither does the narrator feel as though the war will last. Hence her travelling near the front to her aunt and uncles. If anything there is a sense of innocence among the narrator and the soldiers. They have absolutely no idea how harsh the war will be. It is also possible that the narrator knows the corporal already and they may have a close relationship.
Something that is noticeable by the fact that the narrator goes for a drink with the soldiers. If she knew she was in danger’s harm she would have stayed with her aunt and uncle. The reader also feels as though the innkeeper who serves the narrator and the soldiers Mirabelle has sympathy for them. She knows that they have or will have a hard life and she cannot see herself refusing them the drink. Though she doesn’t want to get caught by the police she still nonetheless takes the risk and serves them. This may be important as it shows an understanding for the difficulties the soldiers will incur. Also the innkeeper has gratitude for their services. Even if Blackbeard is already drunk. Which is understandable as he may be attempting to numb the pain of being a soldier on the front line. Generally speaking soldiers like to escape when they are on leave. It is the only respite that they get and they are after all risking their lives for the good of others. As to whether everyone appreciates this is another matter. Some may have seen WWI as being a foolish war and not deserving of the deaths or causalities it caused.