The Treatment of fantasy in Katherine Mansfield's short stories

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One of the under-explored areas in Katherine Mansfield's fictional art is the recurrent use of fantasy. Herbert Gold defines this term as "the dreaming about alternatives which makes men human" (450), while Nadine Gordimer regards it as "a shift in angle" and "a wider lens on ultimate reality" (459-60). Kathryn Hume perceives it more inclusively as "any departure from consensus reality, ... manifested in innumerable variations, from monster to metaphor" (21). Mansfield herself attributes fantasy to the artist's desire "to create his own world in this world" (Journal 273). Three major facts in her life explain her tendency to turn within--her feeling as an outsider ostracized by London literary society, the constant vacillation between a marriage and a Lesbian sisterhood, and the impact of the World War I. Fantasy in her stories functions, first of all, to strengthen the characterization. As she simultaneously believes in and doubts the existence of a unified self, her characters are torn between their indulgence in role­playing and their desire to realize a "true" self. As their subjective vision constantly intrudes onto the objective reality, fantasy becomes a part of characterization. The portrayal of their manifold experiences offers the reader multiple perspectives to probe their psychological depths. Mansfield has repeatedly expressed her preference for a revelation of soul through suggestive gestures. Her world of fantasy is composed of a series of images rich in associative meanings. While her early works mainly center on "dream figures," her later stories shift the focus to the natural world for figurative expression. In presenting such images and symbols in the realm of fantasy, Mansfield unfolds another controversial aspect of life: an unquenchable desire for truth and love mingled with a despair over the unattainability of them. Fantasy is also partially responsible for both the departure from and adherence to tradition in her narrative structure. It has three major structural functions-­additive, subtractive, and contrastive. It reinforces the progression of plot and heightens the effect of thematic conflict by revealing the discrepancy from reality. The point of recognition is reached when the two come to an open confrontation. Resolution is usually expressed in the moment of perception following the climactic clash. In most of her stories, fantasy achieves the intended goal of exploring and commenting on the nature of reality. Two basic features of fantasy--the sincerity in her heroines' pursuit of truth and the indignation against the brutality of existence--help to establish her as one of the serious writers of the twentieth century.
Bibliography: p. 122-127.
Zhang, L. (1988). The Treatment of fantasy in Katherine Mansfield's short stories (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/12116