Mansfield, France and childhood


Mansfield’s ambivalent love affair with France, which flowered after 1912, also saw her tackling her great theme of childhood as she moved away from the style of the raw, outback New Zealand stories written in 1912/13 into a more impressionistic mode. Her recreation of her early life through the figure of Kezia in the first draft of ‘The Aloe’, written in Paris (March to May 1915), has its origin in stories published in Rhythm (October 1912): ‘New Dresses’, ‘Elena’, and ‘The Little Girl’; but interestingly this semi-biographical point of departure is contextualized by stories written around the same time in which childhood is represented as a state that overlaps and is even confused with puberty, adolescence, adulthood, as in ‘Something Childish But Very Natural’, her first story written in France (Paris, December 1913), and ‘The Little Governess’ (Paris, May 1915). This paper examines these transitions in her work to argue that Mansfield explored liminal states in her characters, who combine elements of childhood, youth, and maturity, so dramatising her own psychological criss-crossing between these phases in her recreation of the family drama of ‘The Aloe

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