Millie by Katherine Mansfield
In Millie by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of loneliness, kindness, identity, independence, loyalty, struggle and gratitude. Taken from her Something Childish 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 loneliness. Millie lives with Sid however there is no mention of her having a life outside of her marriage. It is as though Millie may be lonely. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when Sid leaves home to find Harrison. Millie looks at herself in the mirror and it may be case that Mansfield is symbolically suggesting that Millie is reflecting on her life. Also when Millie looks at the Queen in the picture. Though she does not wish to have the Queen’s life there is a sense that Millie would at least like some company. It is also noticeable that throughout the story Millie tries to be tough not only with Harrison who she eventually feels sorry for but she is also tough on herself. The reader suspecting that Millie may be afraid to show her true identity as a woman as she might be considered weak by others.
It is also interesting that Millie suggests that she doesn’t mind the fact that she never had children. However the truth is very much different. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Millie takes care of Harrison as a mother would do. Again there is a sense that Millie is not being true to herself. Possibly because of her environment. Millie lives a tough life and as such she thinks that she too has to be tough. It is also noticeable that Millie’s life is dominated by men. Something that is symbolically noticeable by the fact that Millie is the only woman in the story while there are five male characters. It is also seems to be a case that Millie has a role to play in the home. Which would have been the case for many women at the time the story was written. Rather than going with Sid to find Harrison. It is Millie’s job to stay at home. If anything there would be no sense of equality when it comes to gender roles in the story or again at the time the story was written.
Millie’s relationship with Harrison may also be important. Not only does Millie treat him as a mother would treat a child but she also does not judge Harrison. This is interesting because it would go against what Sid would expect of Millie and if anything some critics might suggest that Millie is being disloyal to Sid. If this is the case it is possible that the disloyalty that Millie is showing Sid may be due to the struggle that Millie is going through in life. Life is not easy for Millie and it is even harder because she is a woman. She is living in a male dominated world and as such Millie feels as though she has to be as tough as a man. However Harrison brings out the maternal instinct in Millie. For the first time in the story Millie is able to feel as though she is a woman. A woman who will not judge a child and who will help that child if she can. The fact that Millie does not tell Sid that she has helped Harrison is also interesting as again it highlights the theme of loyalty. How Millie feels as a woman takes precedence over any obligation she might feel she has to Sid. It is as though for the first time in the story Millie is acting independently.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader is confused by Millie’s actions. Where previously she had helped Harrison now she is urging Sid on to capture him or at least this is how it seems. However it is possible that Millie is jeering Sid rather than cheering him. With the reality being that Millie remains loyal to her instincts and to Harrison. If anything Millie may be grateful to Harrison for awakening her motherly instincts and as such this could be why she is jeering Sid. It is as though Millie has come to a realisation that the life she is living may not necessarily be how she wants to live her life. The very fact that Millie never judges Harrison and helps him to recover highlights that Millie has the ability to be compassionate despite trying to show a tough exterior. At the end of the story Millie may have actually changed as a person. No longer does she see herself as Sid may see her. Rather she has found the ability to express herself independently of Sid. Something that the reader is aware of through Millie’s non-judgemental approach to Harrison. For a woman who likes to appear as being tough. Millie has shown kindness to Harrison.