Frau Fischer by Katherine Mansfield
In Frau Fischer by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of independence, letting go, acceptance change, trust, control, gender roles and conflict. Taken from her In a German Pension collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed British woman and after reading the story the reader realises that Mansfield may be exploring the theme of independence. The narrator lies to Frau Fischer about the fact that she is not married and Frau Fischer assumes that the narrator must be at odds with herself because her husband is not with her. This may be important as it suggests that not only is Frau Fischer unable to accept that a woman can be independent of her husband but more importantly it highlights just how reliant Frau Fischer is on men. It is also noticeable that Frau Fischer mentions her dead husband on three separate occasions. It is as though she is unable to let go of the fact that her husband is dead. Though we do not know how long Frau Fischer has been a widow there is no sense that she has moved on. Which would further play on the theme of acceptance. Frau Fischer does not appear to accept that her husband is dead and that her own life has changed.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that the narrator most likely told Frau Fischer that she was married in order to withhold the truth about her life from Frau Fischer. It is as though the narrator does not trust Frau Fischer. Something that is clearer to the reader by the fact that the narrator holds back when she is in conversation with Frau Fischer. She does not want to act with malice or drop her guard. As to why the narrator might not trust Frau Fischer is difficult to say. It may be a case that Frau Fischer’s opinion with regard to British men (waiters) is contrary to how the narrator feels. The narrator may have felt slighted and as such has deliberately chosen to lie to Frau Fischer about the fact that she is not married. It is also interesting that none of Frau Fischer’s five children have a voice in the story. It is possible that by not giving the children a voice Mansfield is suggesting that Frau Fischer is a dominant force within her family. Already the reader knows that Frau Fischer owns a candle factory so she may be used to being in control.
Frau Fischer’s stance on a woman’s role within a marriage is also interesting. She believes that it is the role of a woman to not only be beside their husband but to also bear children. Frau Fischer does not believe that a woman can live independently of a man. As the narrator does. For Frau Fischer this would be alien. It also appears as though Frau Fischer believes that a woman cannot conduct a conversation with a man who is not their husband. It is as though there is an etiquette to follow and the husband takes the lead. Followed dutifully by the wife. Which some readers might find interesting. At no stage of the story does the reader think that Frau Fischer believes in equality within a marriage. Both the husband and the wife have separate and defined roles that are considered to be sociably acceptable. At least in Frau Fischer’s eyes. As mentioned the role of the woman within a marriage is to be subservient to her husband and to bear him children. There is no room for the female to think independently of her husband. For Frau Fischer the role of each gender appears to be set in stone. The male takes the lead while the female follows behind.
The fact that Frau Fischer walks straight into the narrator’s room without knocking on the door further suggests that Frau Fischer likes to be in control. If anything Frau Fischer may be the type of woman who will not take no for an answer. She probably likes to get and have her own way when it comes to matters. The fact that she tells the narrator to come to her room after dinner also suggests that Frau Fischer likes to be in control. She wants to know more about the narrator. Though the reader senses that the conversation may end up being about Frau Fischer and the fact that she is a widow. If this is the case then it would suggest that Frau Fischer is selfish. Though she does attempt to portray a friendly image to the narrator. Who interestingly enough does not squeeze Frau Fischer’s hand when Frau Fischer squeezes hers. It may be a case that again the narrator does not trust Frau Fischer nor does she wish to be friendly with her. If anything culturally there may be a clash between the narrator and Frau Fischer. Though Frau Fischer does not appear to be aware of any conflict.