Psychology by Katherine Mansfield
In Psychology by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of friendship, connection, commitment, love, passion, fear and control. 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 it becomes clear to the reader that Mansfield may be exploring the theme of friendship. Both the playwright and writer feel comfortable in one another’s company. It is as though they can both understand each other without the complications that come with having to watch what one says. There is also a sense that both the playwright and writer are able to connect with one another. It is as though they can both read each other’s thoughts. Knowing what the other person might be thinking. It may also be a case that both characters are in love with each other. So familiar are both characters with each other’s minds that the reader suspects that both actually love one another. Though both fear taking the necessary step to reveal their love for one another. It may also be significant that Mansfield tells the reader that the playwright’s voice ‘was like his’ when the playwright notices that it is raining. It is as though the playwright is at one with the writer. Which would play on not only the theme of love but on connection too. It is as though both the playwright and the writer can wear the same glove and it will fit perfectly for both.
However despite there being an intellectual connection between both the playwright and the writer the emotional connection, though obvious with the playwright is hidden deeply within the writer. It is as though the writer is afraid to commit himself emotionally to the playwright. When the opportunity presents itself the writer makes an excuse and leaves the playwright’s studio. It is also possible that Mansfield is using the fire in the playwright’s studio as symbolism for the playwright’s love or passion for the writer. Just as the fire burns brightly throughout the story so too does the playwright’s passion for the writer. Similarly Mansfield describes the light from the fire as ‘leaping’ which in many ways mirrors how the playwright feels when it comes to the writer. Her heart may leap when the playwright arrives at her studio. Though it is interesting that the playwright moves away from the writer after their initial conversation. It is possible that Mansfield is using this movement to symbolically highlight the fear the playwright feels should she expose her true feelings to the writer.
There is further symbolism in the story which may be important. The flowers which the playwright receives from her friend are described as being ‘dead’. This in many ways mirrors how the playwright feels after the writer leaves her studio. She too feels dead inside or at least at a loss to understand as to why her love remains unrequited. The description of the cushions as being ‘like furious mountains’ may also be important as Mansfield may be using the cushions to describe not only how the playwright feels but also how she may feel she has a mountain in front of her when it comes to the writer expressing how he really feels for her. It is also interesting that the playwright feels as though both she and the writer have completely surrendered to each other when it comes to their minds. The same cannot be said for their hearts. Both hold back though the playwright does long for more than a friendship with the writer. As does the writer though he is unwilling to admit it out of fear. Mentally both the playwright and the writer may be mature. However emotionally neither is prepared to take the first step again because of fear. Fear of rejection.
The end of the story is also interesting as there is a noticeable return to calm within the playwright. Despite the feelings she feels for the writer she is able to settle her thoughts (and feelings) and begin writing a letter to the writer. Carrying on from where they left off before the writer left. The fact that the playwright signs the letter ‘Good night, my friend’ may also be important as it suggests that the playwright has complete control of her emotional state. Where previously she had been somewhat distressed after the writer left her studio now the reader finds the playwright is in control of her feelings. Which may lead the reader to suspect that the playwright no longer loves the writer. However the reality may be that the playwright has just regained control of her emotions temporarily. Her feeling s of love for the writer are just under control. They have not disappeared. The reader left suspecting that when the playwright and writer meet again both will feel the same feelings again. As to whether either makes an emotional commitment to the other is difficult to say. It is clear that the playwright wishes to pursue a different type of relationship. Yet she may have to allow the writer make the first step.