Spring Pictures by Katherine Mansfield
In Spring Pictures by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of struggle, escape, hope, materialism, loneliness and connection. Taken from her Something Childish and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed woman and after reading the story the reader realises that Mansfield may be exploring the theme of struggle. The old woman (or hag) is pushing her barrow through the streets as she attempts to sell some flowers. However nobody is buying the flowers nor is anybody buying anything from any of the street vendors. It is as though each character mentioned is struggling to make a living. This may be important as Mansfield may be placing a spotlight on the difficulties that some people had while trying to exist at the time the story was written. It is also possible that the music that the old woman and others hear symbolically represents escape. Yet nobody enters the building to watch the musicians play the music. This too may be important as it suggests that the old woman and others have little or no hope. They know that how they make their living is all that they have. Life if anything is and will be tough for all concerned.
It may also be important that the flowers the old woman is selling look more like faded cauliflowers as in many ways Mansfield may be suggesting that the old woman too is faded. Her best years may be behind her. Also the description of each shop could be important as Mansfield may be highlighting society’s love affair with materialism. Each item mentioned by the narrator would have little or no practical use to anybody but each item is described in detail. As though they are of importance to the individual. Which may be the point that Mansfield is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that there is no need for people to engage in life materialistically. There are other things that can make a person happy. However it is difficult to find any real happiness on the street. Apart from the music being played not much else would be considered to be of value. The narrator herself seems to be lonely and discontent. Though we do not know much about her there is a sense that she may be in pain emotionally. However as readers we can only speculate as to what has caused this pain. Regardless of this it is obvious to the reader that the narrator like others on the street is unable to escape from the negative feelings she feels.
The fact that the narrator gives the reader such insight into what is happening in the street is also interesting. As what is happening on the street is being mirrored in how the narrator is feeling. She wants the music to cheer her up but it doesn’t and just like everybody else on the street the narrator feels as though her life is hopeless. Though again it is difficult to reason as to why the narrator may feel like this. However the fact that the narrator is waiting for a letter to arrive may suggest that she is waiting for some important news. News which does not arrive and which leaves the narrator as despondent as she was when first introduced to the reader. It is as though she is looking to make a connection but nothing is happening. Something which is very similar for the old woman selling flowers. She too is looking for a connection (customer). This lack of connection with another human being for the narrator would further emphasis the theme of loneliness.
The end of the story is also interesting as it is possible that Mansfield is changing from first person narrator to third person and the woman mentioned in the final section of the story may be the original narrator. It is also obvious to the reader that the woman mentioned in the final section of the story is in distress. She is pacing and may be confused. If anything it is possible that Mansfield is highlighting to the reader the fact that the original narrator has jumped into the water in an attempt to kill herself. If this is the case then the reader suspects that the burden the original narrator felt became too much for her. She may have come to the realisation that there would be no letter. That she was to remain alone. Something that might have been unbearable for the original narrator to think about. Hence her committing suicide. The fact that Mansfield also describes the original narrator as being a ‘blur’ before she disappears could also be important as it suggests that the original narrator was no longer something or someone that was identifiable. She was no longer alive. If anything the original narrator may have felt that she was beaten and that suicide was her only option.