Daphne by Katherine Mansfield
In Daphne by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of heartbreak, failure, control, confidence, letting go and love. Taken from her The Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed male narrator and the reader realises after reading the story that Mansfield may be exploring the theme of heartbreak. The narrator loves Daphne however he cannot work her out. Not only is he confused by her actions but Daphne doesn’t believe that she is the woman for him. This may be significant as throughout the story and until Daphne arrives on the scene. The narrator has been ultra-confident when it comes to the matter of women. He not only prefers their company but he appears to believe that he understands women better than they understand themselves. That is how confident the narrator is. It might also be important that the narrator mentions on several occasions that he does not enjoy male company. It is possible that the narrator looks upon other men as a threat to his endeavours or adventures with women. The narrator seems to want to be in control something he manages to do when painting pictures of the women at Port Willin.
It is also possible that the narrator is jealous of other suitors that might court Daphne. She does after all appear to have a cast a spell over the narrator. One in which he is unable to break away from. The narrator might also never have had the experience of being rebuked by a woman before and this is what Daphne does to him. She rebukes the narrator and he is at a loss to do anything constructive in the meantime. The narrator’s friendship with Field could also have some significance as he is the only man in the story that the narrator gets along with. Which is understandable considering that both men have an interest in art. The narrator painting it and Field selling it. It is the only successful relationship that the narrator has throughout the story. Yet ironically he prefers or alludes to his success with women. Which some critics might consider to be a lie and as such the narrator may be considered to be unreliable.
He talks incessantly of his own needs yet does not take into consideration the needs or wants of others like Daphne. Though in fairness to the narrator he doesn’t know the real reason as to why Daphne does not want to see him anymore. She simply doesn’t see them as being compatible but no explanation is given. Perhaps there are further details in Daphne’s letter to the narrator or she did not like the narrator’s mannerisms when they went swimming. It could also be a case that the narrator is used to being the one who is being chased and the situation he finds himself in with Daphne is alien to him. Another interesting aspect of the story is the fact that the narrator can’t let go of Daphne. He was smitten by her when he first set eyes on her and remains smitten during the breakup. If anything the narrator feels as though he has failed and is a defeated man.
No longer does the reader sense that the narrator is the same confident man he once was when he arrived in Port Willin. The simple joys he felt and his connection with nature have abandoned him. Daphne no longer wants anything to do with him. She is being gentle with the calling off of their friendship/courtship but the narrator is still unable to let go. Any matter that does not involve Daphne is unimportant to the narrator. For example he never contacts Field to see how many of his paintings might have sold. Though the narrator only briefly knew Daphne she in many ways may have become his muse or his reason for existing. Without Daphne the narrator may feel as though he is nothing. If anything the narrator has made the mistake of falling head over heels in love with Daphne and she cannot reciprocate. Leaving the narrator to be a shell of the once confident man he was. There is also no doubting that the narrator’s stay at Port Willin’s will come to an abrupt end. There is no longer anything to keep him there. The narrator will have to rethink the position he finds himself in and this will not be done at Port Willin’s