Revelations by Katherine Mansfield
In Revelations by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of insecurity, loneliness, freedom, change, compassion and selfishness. 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 insecurity. Monica at times considers herself to be old even though she is only thirty three. She on occasions makes comparisons with herself and women who are younger and possibly in Monica’s eyes prettier than her. This may be important as not only does it suggest that Monica is insecure but she is also restricting herself from developing by constantly comparing herself to other women. Rather than allowing herself to be free, by not comparing herself to others, she restricts her emotional development. Though she may be thirty three years old in many ways she is acting younger with her actions being comparable to those of an insecure teenager. It is also noticeable that Monica feels insecure when she is in the hairdressers. She is not greeted as she normally would be and begins to think that she should leave before George gets the opportunity to do her hair.
It may also be important that none of the letters that the postman brings to the flat are ever for Monica rather they are always for Ralph. It is possible that by introducing the letters into the story that Mansfield is highlighting how lonely Monica really is. It is also interesting that there is only a brief mention of Monica’s friends and that Monica feels as though the people (George and the Madame) who work in the hairdressers understand her more than her friends do. This would further highlight just how lonely Monica feels in life. Feeling as if she does not have the support of her friends. Similarly when it comes to Ralph. There is no sense that Ralph understands Monica and if anything he makes fun of her throughout the story and in many ways belittles how Monica feels. Whether Mansfield is suggesting that Ralph’s traits (lacking compassion) are similar to the traits of men in general is difficult to say as the only other male in the story George (in Monica’s eyes) understands her.
What is also interesting about Monica’s visits to the hairdressers is the sense of freedom she feels while she is there. She is happier in George’s company than she is in Ralph’s. Though this is most likely due to the fact that Monica believes that she is understood by George. However the reader gets no real insight into any previous conversations that Monica has had with George so it is difficult to say if the freedom Monica feels is completely due to her conversations with George. It is possible that the freedom Monica feels stems from the fact that she is no longer stuck in the flat. It is also possible that the Madame and George look at their relationship with Monica as being a business relationship and as such are keen to please her.
It is also interesting that for the main part of the story Mansfield manages to successfully make the reader feel sympathetic towards Monica. Ralph doesn’t understand her nor do her friends and most of her day if not all of it is spent isolated in her flat. There is also a sense that Monica is taking control of her life when she refuses to meet Ralph at Princes. The reader left feeling as though her decision to go to the hairdressers instead is the beginning of a progressive change. Monica finally freeing herself from the negativity that she feels around her. However the reality is very much different. Throughout the story Monica regardless of her condition (nerves) thinks about herself. Something that is further noticeable when she leaves the hairdressers.
Though Monica is briefly upset when she hears about the death of George’s daughter. As she is travelling towards Princes in the cab she soon forgets about George. Something that is noticeable by Monica’s continuation to Princes despite the chance of buying some flowers for the funeral. Any change that the reader felt Monica was going to make is lost. She is to live her life as she always has. Thinking about herself and making no changes of note that would help her overcome her condition. By meeting Ralph at Princes and passing by the flower shop Monica is consciously making a decision not to change her life. Even though she is uncomfortable with her life. As to why Monica decides not to change her life is difficult to say. Change for any person can be difficult and involve a certain amount of effort. An effort that Monica does not appear to want to make. Just as Ralph has been selfish to Monica throughout the story so too has Monica being selfish to George. Thinking about herself and her life at all times without consideration for others. Though Monica may have felt embarrassed when she heard of the death of George’s daughter she did not stay to talk to him or comfort him nor did she buy the flowers. She thought only of herself.