The Reading Life Katherine Mansfield Project
"Susannah" by Katherine Mansfield (1888 to 1923) was included in Dove's Nestz and other Stories in 1923 by Mansfield's husband, John Middleton Murry after first being published in 1922.
from "God the Father" 1912 by Katherine Mansfield
Come down from your place, Grey Beard,
We have had enough of your play-acting!"
It is centuries since I believed in you,
But to-day my need of you has come back.
I want no rose-coloured future,
No books of learning, no protestations and denials--
I am sick of this ugly scramble,
I am tired of being pulled about--
O God, I want to sit on your knees
On the all-too-big throne of Heaven,
And fall asleep with my hands tangled in your grey beard
"Susannah" is an interesting story both for its style, content and the insight it gives us into the literary methods of Mansfield. One can also see this story as giving us in insight into a childhood seen through adult eyes.
The story centers on a mother talking to her children about their need to show appreciation to their father who works very long hours to provide them not just with necessities but luxuries. In this vague echo of King Lear, the father has three daughters who each has their own ideas as to what their relationship to their father should be. The issue of the moment is that the youngest daughter Susannah does not want to go to an exhibition (we do not learn more about what the exhibition treats of) for which the father has already bought tickets. Here is the mother's admonishment of Susannah:
Go along," said Mother. And Father said sharply, " What the devil's the matter with the child ? "
Susannah's face quivered. " I don't want to go," she whispered.
" What! Don't want to go to the Exhibition ! After Father's— You naughty, ungrateful child ! Either you go to the Exhibition, Susannah, or you will be packed off to bed at once."
Susannah's head bent low, lower still. All her little body bent forward. She looked as though she was going to bow down, to bow down to the ground, before her kind generous Father and beg for his forgiveness. . .
This story is also interesting in that Mansfield provides us with two versions of the same story.
"Susannah" and most of Mansfield's other short stories can be read online at the wonderful New Zealand Electronic Text Center