Something Childish but very Natural by Katherine Mansfield
In Something Childish but very Natural by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of connection, love, fear, uncertainty, frustration, commitment, change, conflict and innocence. 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 connection. Despite the fact that both Henry and Edna appear to be somewhat shy both do make a connection with one another while they are travelling on the train. This connection may be important as it grows from two people liking each other to both Henry and Edna falling in love. It may also be important that Edna does not wish for any physical contact between herself and Henry. At least not till later on in the story. Edna’s reason for this could be two fold. Firstly she may wish to protect herself. Having fallen in love with Henry she may fear further commitment. Also Edna may wish to keep her relationship with Henry as pure as possible. She is after all only sixteen years old. It might also be possible that Edna’s outlook on love (minus physical contact) is purely fantastical if not unrealistic. The reader aware that Henry finds it difficult when trying not to be physical with Edna.
It may also be important that Mansfield begins the story on the first day of Spring as symbolically she could be suggesting that just as Spring is coming into bloom so too is love for Henry and Edna. However just as the season has changed the same cannot be said for Edna’s outlook on love and what love involves. As mentioned Edna is only sixteen and would be unaccustomed to the ways of the world. If anything she is an innocent not only in life but in love too. She is happy to fantasize about living with Henry (in the village) yet she is unsure as to whether she would make that sort of commitment in real life. However it is noticeable later on in the story that the urge for Henry to kiss her becomes overpowering for Edna yet the reader senses that she may feel guilty about how she feels. It is as though the transition from childhood to adolescence is too difficult for Edna to make. She is happier when she is having fun with Henry but when it comes to expressing her love physically she remains uncertain.
It is as though Edna is in conflict with herself. With the biggest stumbling block that Edna faces being whether to commit herself physically to Henry. Henry on the other hand has no problem with engaging in a physical relationship with Edna. However he also respects Edna’s decision not to commit herself physically to him. This may be important as many young men of the time may not have been as patient as Henry and if anything his understanding of Edna’s position is admirable. It also highlights to the reader the fact that Henry loves Edna regardless of whether they have physical contact or not. It might also be important that Henry does not push Edna away nor does he abandon her. Throughout the story he remains patient though the reader is also aware that Henry at times is frustrated. As to why Edna is so afraid to commit herself physically to Henry is difficult to say. Though it is possible that the harmony she feels without physical contact with Henry is something that she wishes to hold onto. If anything Edna may wish to hold onto her innocence for as long as she can.
The end of the story is also interesting. Though Henry is only dreaming the dream itself may be important as Mansfield may be using it to highlight the apprehensions or fears that Henry has when it comes to Edna making a commitment. It is as though any uncertainty that Henry has about his relationship with Edna is manifested in the dream. Though the reader is not afforded the privilege of knowing what is written in the telegram. Most likely it is from Edna and she is writing to tell Henry that she cannot commit herself to him. Through fear Edna has decided against continuing with her relationship with Henry. However the fact that Henry is dreaming leaves the reader wondering as to what exactly is the reality that will face Henry. With there being more questions than answers at the end of the story. The reader never finding out as to whether Edna has successfully made the leap from childhood to adolescence or whether she is prepared to show Henry the same commitment he is showing her. At all stages of the story Henry has understood and accepted the stance that Edna has taken. He has not given up on her when many other men might have. If anything Henry has been truly committed to Edna throughout the story.