Two Tuppenny Ones, Please by Katherine Mansfield

In Two Tuppenny Ones, Please by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of gossip, selfishness, trust, acceptance and poverty. Taken from her Something Childish and Other Stories collection the narrative style of the story is unusual. It is written more as a play than a story. A play that has three characters and only two who speak. The Lady and the bus conductor. The Lady’s unnamed friend remains silent throughout the story not because she may want to but because she can’t get her voice heard due to the Lady talking. It also becomes clear to the reader that the Lady likes to gossip about others. She shifts between different (absent) characters and makes comments about their lives. It is as though gossip drives the Lady. She is fueled by it and needs it like someone might need air to breathe. The Lady also inflates her own ego when she mentions that she looks after injured soldiers when the reality is that her servant takes the men down to the zoo. In reality the Lady does nothing but assure her friend that she is a woman of importance. Doing her bit for the war effort.

The only character who stands up to the Lady is the bus conductor. He does not let her away with not paying the correct fare when the reader suspects that the Lady is taking umbrage at being asked to pay a fare in excess of what she has previously paid. It is also never mentioned by Mansfield as to why the Lady does not have a car and chauffeur like her friends. She is after all a Lady of means. She could easily afford to travel by car or perhaps the Lady is portraying an image of success and in reality may be broke. It might be for this reason that the Lady did not buy the coat in Yvette’s. A designer who the Lady feels is overrated but the reality might be that the Lady simply can no longer afford to buy her coats in Yvette’s. If anything it is also possible that the Lady is poverty stricken to the degree she is not able to afford the delights in life she previously afforded. Also the Lady is selfish for not giving her friend time to speak and making sure that the conversation is not one-sided.

There is also some symbolism in the story which may be important. The Lady openly gossips among strangers on the bus. Which may leave some readers to suggest that she is not necessarily an individual that one could trust. She also haggles with the bus conductor over the bus fare which may suggest money is tight for the Lady. It is also noticeable that she appears to only have coins in her handbag. Which would again play on the theme of poverty. The Lady’s friend’s silence might also be symbolic as it is possible that the friend is used to the Lady speaking all the time. She knows not to interject in the conversation. The fact that the destination of the bus journey is unknown may not necessarily be important as the Lady gives herself away throughout the journey. She is a lady who has fallen on hard times, who is not prepared to work and who thrives on gossiping about those she considers to be beneath her.

The end of the story is interesting as the Lady loses track of time and nearly misses her bus stop. It is possible that she has been so busy gossiping that she has forgotten which stop is hers. It is also interesting that the bus conductor does not let the Lady stay on the bus unless she pays another penny. He is not swayed by her or her appearance. As far as he is concerned she is another passenger who has to pay the correct fare. The Lady also takes exception to the fact that she is being rushed off the bus by the conductor. It is as though she expects to be treated differently to others as her title might suggest. However the world is changing fast and people are trying to cope to the best of their abilities. The war has brought casualties and death and things are about to change. The respect shown to the upper classes is no longer and the upper classes are no longer either.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "Two Tuppenny Ones, Please by Katherine Mansfield." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 9 Jan. 2020. Web.

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