Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"The Wrong House" by Katherine Mansfield

"The Wrong House"  by Katherine Mansfield (6 pages, 1919)

"The Wrong House" by Katherine Mansfield (1888 to 1923-New Zealand) was first published in 1919 and then was included in a collection of her works published shortly after her death by her husband, John Middleton Murray, entitled Something Childish and Other Stories.

"The Wrong House" is a very strange story and I am not at all sure I understand it well at all.    As the story begins a woman is knitting just as she has done for years.    The central character, a woman of 35 or so, is home alone.     Her helper has gone to the market to get a chicken.       She notices a funeral procession and she knows it must have started at one of the houses on her street.   Suddenly something completely bizarre and unfathomable almost unfathomable  happens as she looks at the passing procession.

 What horrible looking men, too! laughing and joking. One leaned over to one side and blew his nose with his black glove— horrible! She gathered up the knitting, hiding her hands in it. Dollicas surely would have known … There, they were passing … It was the other end …
What was this? What was happening? What could it mean? Help, God! Her old heart leaped like a fish and then fell as the glass coach drew up outside her door, as the outside men scrambled down from the front, swung off the back, and the tallest of them, with a glance of surprise at the windows, came quickly, stealthily, up the garden path.
“No!” she groaned. But yes, the blow fell, and for the moment it struck her down. She gasped, a great cold shiver went through her, and stayed in her hands and knees. She saw the man withdraw a step and again—that puzzled glance at the blinds—then—

We are given no explanation as to why this happens and the woman has no understanding of what occurred.   We are left wondering if this is a waking day dream or was it a  strange case of mistaken identity  and was the man meaning to strike another person?    

The plot events made me  wonder what symbolic or representational meanings might be in "The Wrong House".      What is being conveyed in the random violence of a man upon a woman at the wrong house and really why was he planning to strike a woman in any house?  

Mel u


Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the man striking her is a Grim Reaper like character? A sort of metaphor that death will eventually strike her down?

Mel u said...

Anonymous poster. I reread this story just now, the woman is not 35, but elderly. I am not sure if the man who knocks on her door thinking to pick up,her as a deceased person represents death or just a sense of how little sense life can make at times