The Black Cap by Katherine Mansfield
In The Black Cap by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of appearance, boredom, adultery, class, paralysis and love. Taken from her Something Childish and Other Stories collection the reader realises after reading the story that Mansfield may be exploring the theme of appearance. The lady does not like her lover wearing his black cap. If anything her perception of him takes on a different meaning. She moves from loving him to judging him over his appearance. Which may suggest to some readers that the lady never really loved her lover. He may have been no more than a convenience to her. Somebody she could spend intimate moments with that were lacking with her husband. Who at the start of the story shows that he may not necessarily be devoted to the lady? It is also possible that Mansfield is exploring the theme of boredom. The lady lives her life cocooned in her home. Venturing out only when circumstances dictate. Her life does appear to revolve around her husband’s needs. Which may explain as to why the lady is cheating on her husband.
Also the lady may not have felt as though she was fully appreciated by her husband and as such longed to be told by another man that she was needed. Something which is clear to the reader by the lover’s engagement with the lady. He is the one who is pushing the relationship forward. However she is embarrassed to be seen with him because he is wearing the black cap. Though he is blind to her embarrassment. This may be significant as Mansfield through the lover may be suggesting that love in itself is blind. In reality the lady does not treat her lover very well and again he is oblivious to this. His main concern is to be close to the lady even if she is obviously displeased with him and his appearance.
It is also possible that Mansfield through the lover’s attire is exploring the theme of class. At the time caps were worn by men who were working class. While hats were worn by those of who belonged to the middle or upper classes. It may be the case that the lady is afraid to be associated with her lover and is keen to keep him at arm’s length. It is noticeable that the lady tries to distance herself from her lover as much as possible. Even going as far as wanting a separate room from him in the hotel. However the lover loses none of his desire for the lady. Not only is love blind but the lover’s senses, mentally, appear to have been numbed. Throughout the story he remains unaware of how the lady really feels. Which might be Mansfield’s way of suggesting that men in general do not fully understand women.
The end of the story is interesting as the lady does not fully understand the consequences of her action of abandoning her lover. She is returning to her husband who shows no interest in her and in many ways is mirroring her husband by leaving her lover. The lover, like her, is longing for intimacy with the person he loves. Yet this is not something the lady can see. Instead she is prepared to live her life in paralysis. Doing the same thing with her husband and expecting different results. This will not happen and the lady is sure to live an empty life, craving the love of her husband because she is unable to get over her lover’s appearance. If anything the lady’s love for her lover is fickle and non-lasting. Just as her lover has been abandoned the lady will discover that she too will be forever abandoned by her husband. He has no need to change due to the fickle nature of the lady. She will continue to be at her husband’s beck and call. Nothing will change. As for the lover he will never know as to why his love has been rebuked. Though the reader suspects due to his nature of showing affection to the people and things he loves. His life will not change permanently. He will recover and find love elsewhere.