Feuille d’Album by Katherine Mansfield
In Feuille d’Album by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of happiness, connection, perception, love, struggle and frustration. Taken from her Bliss 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 love. Ian is preoccupied with the young woman who lives across from his own home. There is a sense that he feels as though she is the one for him. If anything Ian is falling in love with the young woman though he knows very little if anything about the woman. This may be important as Mansfield may be suggesting that when an individual feels the first wave of love they themselves do not fully understand or know much about the object of their desire. They feel a connection though may not necessarily understand it. However Ian is keen to follow his heart and pursue the young woman. Which is very different to Ian’s previous relationships in which those he has courted or who have courted him. Tire of him quickly due to his shyness. It is as though Ian was not sufficiently driven by love to pursue a relationship with those he has previously courted.
This may be important as Mansfield could be suggesting that the driving factor for love must be to have the initial feeling of loving somebody. Even though an individual may not necessarily know anything about the person. Something that is clearer to the reader by the fact that Ian spends some of his time at his window imagining what the young woman’s life must be like. Though the reality may be very different to Ian’s perception. For Ian all that matters is the fact that the young woman makes him feel as though he has fallen in love. It is this feeling that initially grabs Ian and it may be possible that Ian has not felt this way before with the previous women he has courted. The fact that Ian thinks that the young woman is of the same age as him may also be important as this would play on the theme of connection. Ian feels as though both he and the young woman will be able to identify with each other due to the fact that they are of a similar age.
There is also some symbolism in the story which may be important. Ian falls in love during the spring time. Spring in literature is often associated with regeneration. Just as the leaves on the trees are beginning to grow and the flowers beginning to bloom. So too are Ian’s feelings for the young woman. It is also interesting that for part of the story Mansfield uses bright colours. Most notably yellow (daffodils) and pink (faces and hands). This may be important as Mansfield could be using the imagery of bright colours to highlight that there is a sense of happiness coming into Ian’s life. Things will be brighter for Ian. Also the egg which Ian hands the young woman may be symbolism for the fragility of love. Just as an egg can easily be broken. Mansfield may be suggesting that so too can an individual’s heart. The fact that Ian has to climb the stairs when he is following the young woman also symbolically suggests that his journey to happiness may have been met with difficulty. Something that the reader is aware of from the ‘hopeless’ relationships he has had with other women. It is as though Ian may have struggled previously. Again something that the reader would be aware of. By using the stairs Mansfield may be symbolically suggesting that Ian has not only had to incur difficulty when pursuing love but he may have struggled (shyness).
The end of the story is also interesting as there is a feeling that Ian has made the first step in his pursuit of love yet like the egg he hands the young woman he remains fragile. As readers we do not learn of what will happen between Ian and the young woman but it is obvious that Ian’s initial fear when it came to courting women may have lessened. He has made the first initial step towards engaging with the young woman. She has managed to find her way into Ian’s heart and he has overcome his shyness in an effort to get to know the young woman. The fact that Ian’s words to the young woman are described as being said ‘almost angrily’ could also be important as Mansfield could be highlighting how frustrated Ian actually is. He has spent a considerable amount of time waiting for a moment to engage with the young woman so it is inevitable that he may be somewhat frustrated. Ian is most likely opening his heart for the first time to a woman and as such will be protective of himself. Something that is natural for a person in Ian’s position. He is dealing with or fighting shyness but is overcoming it by handing the young woman the egg.