My essay will discuss Katherine Mansfield’s The Little Governess which was published in 1915. Like many of Katherine Mansfield’s short stories, this text also discusses childhood joys, fears of adolescent pleasures and pains, of adult aspirations, frustration and humiliation.
A common trend in Katherine Mansfield’s short stories is her preoccupation with an individual who is basically alone and insignificant. Her characters are usually unable to comprehend much beyond their own personal world no matter how beautiful their natural surroundings are. Therefore her characters’ views upon life are normally very subjective, ambivalent and preoccupied.
One critic named Sylvia Berkman argues that it is often difficult to define a precise theme in her stories. However, from my own reading of Katherine Mansfield I think that she chooses themes very much similar to those writers of her generation: a preoccupation with loneliness and frustration, with sexual maladjustment, with purposeless suffering, with the falseness and ostentation of modern sophisticated life and with denial of emotional fulfilment to all classes of men. Many of these which we find in The Little Governess.
“The Little Governess” is a story about a naïve young woman who gets tricked by an old man in a foreign country. The young lady has traveled from England to Germany for a position as a governess for children. However it seems that she is not more than a child herself. She meets an old man on the train who offers to give her a tour of the city before she meets her employer. She accepts, so he treats her to everything a child would love. He then takes her back to his apartment and tries to take advantage of her.
The story is very realistic and yet rather pessimistic. It gives a darker view of life and people. During the story there were a few hints at it’s ending, such as when the hotel waiter sees through the old man to his true intentions. Also when people stare at them in the café.