This Flower by Katherine Mansfield
In This Flower by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of love, perception, secrecy and ambition. Taken from her Something Childish and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and the reader realises after reading the story that Mansfield may be exploring the theme of secrecy. Roy and his lady friend are suspicious of Doctors. They know that Doctors talk to each other about their client’s and as such Roy and the Lady’s secret may come out. That secret is the fact that the lady may be pregnant and she is not married to Roy. Something that at the time the story was written (1919) would have caused a scandal and a lot of judgement, negative judgement from others. It is unthinkable to some in society that a child should be born out of wedlock. It is for this reason that Roy and his lady friend (girlfriend) have decided they should see a different doctor to the one they normally see. If anything Roy and his girlfriend do not trust doctors. Which may be the point that Mansfield is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that the middle classes can’t be trusted with information that may not sit comfortably with them and the middle classes were the ruling class of the time. They could make or break someone.
It is also noticeable that Roy is deeply in love with his girlfriend. He is by her side for most if not all of the story. He doesn’t want to leave her or have her worrying about anything. It might also be significant that neither Roy nor his girlfriend take what the doctor says too seriously. This might suggest that they do not have a lot of time for the medical profession. Viewing them as a collective who would frown upon their relationship. Just as other middle class people might. Roy and his girlfriend do not wish to be fodder to the gossiping of the middle classes. They want to break away from the norm and live their lives together and independently of others. Something which may be possible as Mansfield does not hinder the progress of Roy or his girlfriend. They have no obstacles in front of them so they should be able to move forward with ease. Regardless of if their secret comes out. They know that if their secret comes out they may be ostracized by their peers but Mansfield does enough to give both characters an internal strength to overcome any perceived or real obstacle.
Symbolically Mansfield’s description of the lady’s room could be significant. She is comfortable in the room which may suggest that she is also comfortable with the position she finds herself in. She is not overly concerned that she is not married to Roy and that she is pregnant. Her greatest concern is her well-being. In order that the unborn baby might also be well. The lady in reality is having a check-up to see if everything is all right with her and as such everything will be alright with the baby. The doctor who tends to Roy’s girlfriend is also given an unpleasant description, ‘sodden-looking little man.’ This too could be symbolically significant as it highlights the dislike that both Roy and his girlfriend have for the medical profession. It is also noticeable that Roy’s girlfriend considers the doctor to be an ‘odious little toad’ when he is examining her. This too is important as it compounds the idea that Roy and this girlfriend have very little time or respect for the medical profession.
The end of the story is also interesting as Roy and his girlfriend, after the doctor has not suspected a pregnancy, are relieved that their ambitions remain intact. They will have a child married or not and regardless of social perception. For one day longer their secret remains just that, a secret. They can breathe more easily knowing that they have fooled everybody and it allows them more time to prepare themselves for any backlash that might come when the baby is born. Although any backlash that comes will be negative. This will not be able to upstage the happiness that Roy and his girlfriend feel. They may not be married but they are probably happier than many married couples who stay in loveless and abusive relationships because of public perception when a marriage falls apart.