"Spring Pictures" by Katherine Mansfield (1888 to 1923-New Zealand) was first published in 1915 then republished in a posthumous collection of her work, Something Childish and Other Stories, edited by her husband John Murry (1924).
"Spring Pictures" confused me on first reading but seemed to give up some of its secrets upon a second reading. It is not so much a narrative as painting in prose using what appears to be a dream sequence of a woman staying in a boarding house as its canvas. Much of Mansfield's work deals with the concerns and consciousness of a woman traveling alone and "Spring Pictures" is a central text in this. One huge difference I am seeing between the work of Mansfield and Virginia Woolf is the way the concept of being alone and and loneliness is presented.
There is little plot action in this story. As it opens Mansfield presents us an image rich description of a market as seen through the dream filter of the woman. From this reverie she is awoken by the concierge calling her for breakfast.
Hope! You misery—you sentimental, faded female! Break your last string and have done with it. I shall go mad with your endless thrumming; my heart throbs to it and every little pulse beats in time. It is morning. I lie in the empty bed—the huge bed big as a field and as cold and unsheltered. Through the shutters the sunlight comes up from the river and flows over the ceiling in trembling waves. I hear from outside a hammer tapping, and far below in the house a door swings open and shuts. Is this my room? Are those my clothes folded over an armchair? Under the pillow, sign and symbol of a lonely woman, ticks my watch. The bell jangles. Ah! At last! I leap out of bed and run to the door. Play faster—faster—Hope!The last paragraph of the story is a bit of a mystery to me still-Is it part of the dream reverie, is it a waking aspect of the stream of consciousness of the central character in which she attempts to deal with her despair, is it a fantasy sequence unrelated narratively to the prior to sequences? The story has three distinct sections and the relationship between these three sections is sort of up to the reader to construct.
"Spring Pictures" is one of the most experimental stories by Mansfield I have yet read. In a few paragraphs she challenges us to try to enter the world of the story.