Bank Holiday by Katherine Mansfield
In Bank Holiday by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of impatience, conflict, perfection, struggle, fear and connection. Taken from her The Garden Party and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Mansfield has managed to walk the reader around the park where the bank holiday festivities are occurring. It is also interesting that the narrator is non-complimentary towards people. Perhaps Mansfield is suggesting that people should be more concerned with WWI than with any other jovial activities that they might get up to in the park. It is also noticeable that the narrator is short-tempered, giving none of the characters any length of time to develop and as such allow for the reader to get to know them. This may be deliberate on the narrator’s behalf as she quite literally could be having a bad day in comparison to everybody else. She uses words like ‘fat’ and ‘hag’ when describing other women.
Which leaves the reader to suspect that the narrator may be impatient. Again the severity of WWI at the forefront of her mind. It is not as though the narrator wishes to get into conflict with others but there is a sense that she would not avoid it should conflict arise. There does not appear to be any fear either that the narrator may be overheard by those in the park. It might also be worth noting that there is a sense of promise in the story. Whether it’s the young soldier with his girl or the children running around playing. There is positivity despite the narrator’s harsh words. The narrator is also hard to judge as we know very little about her but it is not wrong to say that she doesn’t have a good word to say about anyone. She finds fault in everything. Which says more for the narrator than it does any of the people in the park. The setting is idyllic yet the narrator is unable to adjust to her surroundings. It is also possible that the narrator is simply highlighting the business-like manner of the afternoon. Nothing is for free. You might have time off work because of the bank holiday but you will pay for your activities someway.
The weather may also act as symbolism. When the sun is shining people are more active and their mood is lifted. Yet when it is windy there is a noticeable change in people’s perception of the day. In one way the wind may act as the wind that brought WWI to the world. Disturbing people from their everyday life (or bank holiday). The music the musicians play and struggle with could also be symbolically significant. With Mansfield using the music, particularly the flute, to place an emphasis again on WWI. Men marching to the sound of the flute. Yet today this is not the case in the park. Nobody is really listening to the music. The fact that the story is in the present tense is interesting as Mansfield by using the present tense manages to bring the reader straight into the story. Just as a film cameraman might. Mansfield using the same wide lens as she walks through the park and picks out moments that annoy the narrator.
The end of the story is also interesting as there seems to be a sense of disgust for the narrator. She really is asking ‘is this it?’ Is there nothing else that people can do on a bank holiday? The reader does not get a feeling that the narrator is connected to the activities that are around her. She is too judgmental of everyone and everything to afford herself the opportunity to connect with the world. Though as mentioned the narrator’s priorities may differ from everybody else. Just because it is a bank holiday doesn’t necessarily mean that the narrator is on a holiday too. She may have a loved one in the trenches and is thinking of them or worse she may have lost a loved one. The sights of the soldiers gaily playing with their girlfriends. This is sure to be a sore point to the narrator and as such might go some way as to explaining her attitude. Life must be difficult for the narrator even if Mansfield withholds important and key information about her.