Oh, Mother, Who Art Thou? : The Heart of Maternal Darkness in the Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield
Keywords:Cultural construct, real experience, ambiguous, failure to conform
Our culture assumes: No love is as great as that of a mother for her child. Motherhood has been perpetually associated with self-effacement and self-abnegation. Adrienne Rich while making a distinction between the actual lived experience of a mother and the institution of motherhood has argued that motherhood is a cultural construct and a far cry from the real experience of mothering. This article traces and examines representations of motherhood in the select short stories of Katherine Mansfield, in the light of Adrienne Rich’s theories in Of Woman Born. Much like Adrienne Rich, Mansfield discredits the traditional assumption that to be a mother is an essential pre-requisite to be a ‘real woman’. Mansfield’s women characters unleash a plurality of voices that aid the readers at viewing maternity as an ambiguous experience. Instead of romanticizing and idealizing the mother-daughter relationship, she offers a problematic connection between both the figures, often pitting them as rivals against each other. Her women characters progressively revolt from within the four walls of the household by their intermittent display of anger and deliberate attempts at failing to conform to the monolithic ideals of femininity.
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