The Wind Blows by Katherine Mansfield
In The Wind Blows by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of independence, discontent, frustration, fear, rivalry, control, change and liberation. 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 fear. Mathilda is in her bedroom and the sound and actions of the wind frighten her. It is as though she is unable to relax. It may also be important that she can hear the sound of her mother’s voice downstairs which further irritates Mathilda. If anything Mansfield appears to be using the wind and Mathilda’s fear as symbolism for change and transition. Mathilda is a young teenage girl who is making the transition to womanhood and it is noticeable that this transition is causing Mathilda angst. Just as the wind is moving outside, inside Mathilda is also moving. Making the progression from teenager to woman. Though only briefly mentioned Marie Swainson’s character may also be important as she in many ways acts as a rival to Mathilda. Both girls are of similar age and the fact that Mathilda is unable to control her dress in the wind suggests at least symbolically that Maria may be a sexual rival to Mathilda.
There is also a sense that Mathilda dislikes the two girls (one of which is Marie Swainson) who are also taking piano lessons from Mr Bullen. Again it is possible that Mathilda sees both girls as rivals for the affections of Mr Bullen. It is also interesting that Mathilda on several occasions considers Mr Bullen to be kind even though the reality is that he most likely treats all his students the same. If anything Mathilda may have a crush on Mr Bullen. Which some critics might suggest is very normal for a teenage girl. It is also noticeable that Mathilda doesn’t like the fact that her mother attempts to dress her. Again this would be very normal for a teenager who is approaching womanhood. Mathilda most likely longs to be independent of her mother and in control of her own life. There is also no doubting that Mathilda is discontent with her life. It is as though she knows that she is being controlled by others (her mother) and longs for the time that she is independent or at least in complete control of her life. Something that usually occurs after the teenage years and when a woman has entered womanhood. If anything Mathilda is frustrated with the position she finds herself in.
There is other symbolism in the story which may be important. The sea water which splashes onto both Bogey and Mathilda in many ways washes away Mathilda’s fears. She is no longer under the management of her mother and in many ways is her own woman. Similarly Mathilda takes of her hat when she is by the sea and allows her hair run free. Which is in contradiction to her mother’s wishes. This may be important as it suggests at least symbolically that Mathilda is again free of her mother. She again is her own woman. It is as though Mathilda feels liberated. The fact that Bogey had suggested they walk by the sea may also be significant as his actions act as the trigger for the beginning of Mathilda’s liberation. It might also be important to note that on the two occasions, prior to the ship in the harbour, that Mathilda feels liberated the cause has been the intervention of a male both Mr Bullen and Bogey. It is as though Mathilda has reached a point in whereby she realises the differences between male and female. Which again would be a step towards womanhood.
The end of the story is also interesting as Mansfield continues to explore the theme of liberation. Mathilda imagines that she is older and on the ship that is leaving the harbour. She is looking back on her day and sees the progress that she has made. It is also interesting that she doesn’t mention Mr Bullen. Rather she just recalls that she had piano lessons that day. This may be important as Mansfield may be suggesting that Mathilda has now reached the point in whereby the male does not take on as much significance as they had previously taken on. It is as though Mathilda is standing on her own two feet. Having managed to make the transition from the teenage years into womanhood. If anything Mathilda has become an independent woman despite her mother’s attempts to control her. At the end of the story there is no longer any fear just optimism about the future and what it might hold. In the space of one day, though in all likelihood there was a build-up, Mathilda has changed. She has successfully overcome the mental obstacles that had obstructed her from the morning and has become aware of who she is. No longer is Mathilda just a teenage girl she is now a young woman.