|Mansfield and her brother Leslie, 1907|
The Katherine Mansfield Reading Project
"Something Natural But Very Childish" was first published in 1914 and was republished shortly after Mansfield's death (New Zealand 1888 to 1923) in the collection Something Childish and Other Stories. This collection of short stories was edited by her husband John Middleton Murry. Murray must have felt this was one of Mansfield's best stories given that the collection was named for it. "Something Childish But Very Natural" is also one of the longer stories of Mansfield (my page estimates are taken from facsimile editions and are probably higher than a modern edition would be).
"Something Childish But Very Natural" begins on a train. A lot of Mansfield's stories center on travel, mostly by train but sometimes by boat or cart . As one seemingly unusual feature, the central character is a male, Henry an eighteen year old office clerk. It was interesting to see Mansfield develop a story at least in part through a male point of view. I think it is significant that the male character is quite young. Older men are not depicted, in the stories I have read, in at all a sympathetic fashion. This is documented in the stories I have posted on but perhaps it comes to our mind because of what we know of her life.
"Something Childish But Very Natural" is more of a traditional story than most of her other works. It has a clear beginning, a plot in which Harry gets to know another train rider, a sixteen year old Edna. Both of them are regular train riders and gradually they fall in love. It is a first love for both of them and the feeling between them is very well developed. Their relationship advances first to a simple excursion then to the point where they look at a cottage and seem to pondering renting it to live in together. Then something very strange happens. I cannot really say what it is because I do not know for sure what it is (and if I did I would not want to spoil this fun story).
This is the only one of her works I have read so far (maybe 30 stories) that has any sort of Gothic or supernatural feel to it. I am open to the possibility that I am projecting that onto the ending to perhaps achieve a forced understanding of the story. I did not all see the strange ending coming and I liked it a lot.
"Something Childish But Very Natyral" is a fun well written story that constructs a complete world in a few pages. It is never mentioned when the greatest stories of Mansfield are detailed but it is worth the time it takes to read it. The full Mansfield short story collections come to little more than 600 pages.
"Something Childish But Very Natural" can be read online at The New Zealand Electronic Text Center, a great online reading resource.