Honeymoon by Katherine Mansfield
In Honeymoon by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of love, happiness, doubt, selfishness and control. Taken from her The Doves’ Nest 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 and happiness. For large sections of the story George and Fanny are very much in love. Which is to be expected for a couple who are on their honeymoon. They remain physically close to each other throughout the story which might suggest they are both deeply in love or committed to each other. Also Mansfield appears to be using bright colours in the story as symbolism to highlight just how happy or in love George and Fanny are. Mansfield’s use of bright colours is noticeable when George and Fanny are in the cab on their way to the restaurant. There are the shaded green and gold plane trees, the streets smelling like lemons (yellow), the café they pass by is described as having pink and white umbrellas and green tables. These descriptions are important as later in the story Mansfield reverts to dark colours (the band) while George and Fanny are sitting in the restaurant. It is through her use of dark colours that the reader suspects that Mansfield is attempting to highlight some doubts that Fanny has when it comes to her marriage.
By asking George does he really know her Fanny is also not only being inquisitive regards George’s thoughts about her but she is also expressing an element of doubt? Fanny’s doubts or apprehensions are not so much with George but with herself. Just as Fanny wonders does George know her it is possible that Fanny is also wondering does she really know who she is? Her life has changed now that she is a married woman and with change comes doubt. It is also interesting that there is no sense that Fanny has been reassured by George’s answer. If anything his reply is one of spontaneity with very little thought given to the deeper meaning of the question. Which throughout the story is George’s reaction to Fanny. At no stage in the story does the reader sense that George is really giving any consideration to Fanny. It may be true that he is polite throughout the story but he also has an ability to turn Fanny’s questions into questions of his own. Something that is noticeable when Fanny is in the cab with him. Rather than answer Fanny, George begins to tell her about the white mouse he had when he was a child. If anything George is acting selfishly keeping the focus on himself throughout his engagement with Fanny.
George in reality is controlling Fanny which may be the point that Mansfield is attempting to make. It is possible that Mansfield is putting a spotlight on marriage itself particularly at the time the story was written. Just as George remains in control Mansfield may be suggesting that men in general remain in control when it comes to their marriages. With wives been subservient to husbands. Which seems to be the case for Fanny. In many ways Fanny does not have a voice in the story with the lead being taken at all times by George. Though some critics might suggest that Fanny is weak by not questioning or pursuing George for an answer to her questions it is more likely that Mansfield is merely demonstrating how widespread the inequality within marriage was at the time the story was written. With women living their lives as subordinates to their husbands.
The end of the story is also interesting as Mansfield appears to be further exploring the theme of doubt. Fanny wonders about how other people might live their life and why so many people might be unhappy. However just as she turns to ask George why some people might be unhappy Mansfield has George ‘feeling differently.’ This may be important as it is possible that Mansfield is suggesting that Fanny and George are incompatible considering they both have very different opinions on the same thing (the old man singing). For Fanny it leads to her questioning things while for George the old man is a figure of fun. Though he is grateful that he is only setting out on life with Fanny and that their life together is at the beginning. However even though George may have some excitement about his future with Fanny he is still not thinking as she is thinking. Rather he takes control again at the end of the story and before Fanny can answer him about leaving the restaurant they have both left. Which suggests that George is not only controlling his and Fanny’s environment but he is doing so without listening to her. Again George is thinking about no one but himself. Even though he is excited about the prospect of a new life with Fanny the reader senses that things will not really change for George. He will still attempt to exert control over Fanny. Living his and Fanny’s life as he sees fit.