Lady Windermere's Fan, By Oscar Wilde



It’s Margaret Windermere’s birthday, and she’s having a party tonight. Her husband has given a fan as a birthday present. Lord Darlington, a friend of the couple, is visiting lady Windermere and is paying her a lot of compliments. He is infatuated with her, but we don’t know if he’s really in love, or he’s only a rake. Lord Darlington knows lord Windermere has a singular relation with a woman called Mrs Erlynne, who is new in the city, and wants to take advantage of this in order to seduce lady Windermere.

Lady Windermere is going to find out about her husband supposed affair through the Duchess of Berwick, who tells her about the frequent visits her husband pays to Mrs Erlynne, hinting he has a love affair with her.

Lady Windermere doesn’t believe the story, but she has some doubts. In the end, she checks her husband bank books and discovers he has repeatedly given big sums of money to Mrs Erlynne.

She asks her husband why he has given her so much money, but he didn’t explain why; he only asks her to trust him and also to invite Mrs Erlynne to her birthday party. As she doesn’t want to do it, Lord Windermere writes himself the invitation card.


In the second act, we are at Lady Windermere birthday party. There are a lot of people, including Lord Windermere’s funny friends, Lord Darlington, the Duchess of Berwick and Mrs Erlynne. In the beginning, all the people want to avoid Mrs Erlynne, but, as the party goes on, everybody is seduced by her wits. Even one of Lord Windermere’s friends, Lord Augustus, aka Tuppy, a very simple man, falls in love with her.

Lady Windermere is so angry and disappointed with her husband, that she decides to accept Lord Darlington’s love and his proposition to elope with her. When the party is over, she leaves a letter for her husband telling him she is leaving him and goes away to Lord Darlington’s house. But Mrs Erlynne sees the letter, takes it before Lord Windermere knows anything about its content, and decides to save her and her marriage.


Lady Windermere is at Lord Darlington’s house waiting for him to run away together. But she has some doubts about her decision. After a while, in comes Mrs Erlynne. She tells her she wants to save her and her family, and lastly, she persuades her to go back to her husband. But, when they are going to go out, Lord Darlington and his friends, including Lord Windermere, are entering the house. Mrs Erlynne and Lady Windermere have to hide quickly.

But somebody finds Lady Windermere’s fan on a chair, and, when Lord Windermere is on the point of starting searching for his wife thinking she has something to do with Lord Darlington, Mrs Erlynne reveals herself. Everybody is astounded, Lady Windermere can make her escape, and Lord Augustus is quite disappointed.


Lady Windermere is at home thinking about the way to thank Mrs Erlynne, now she knows she isn’t a bad woman because she helped her to go back to her husband. But now her husband tells her she’s a contemptible woman.

At that moment, Mrs Erlynne comes to Lord Windermere’s to give back Lady Windermere’s fan and to ask for a photo of hers. While she is looking for it, and Lord Windermere and Mrs Erlynne are alone together, we find out that Mrs Erlynne is Lady Windermere’s mother, and that she abandoned her daughter twenty years ago to elope with her lover, who died some years after and left her alone in the world and rejected by every society. But neither he nor she tells anything of this secret to Lady Windermere.

In the end, Mrs Erlynne goes away, but not without finding a creditable explanation for her appearance at Lord Darlington’s, and this way she gets back Tuppy, and they leave for the continent together.


A Good Woman FILM

Lady Windermere's Fan FILM

Another Lady Windermere's Fan FILM

The Little Governess, by Katherine Mansfield


This story deals with the naivety of a young woman and the lechery of a dirty old man who makes profit of her inexperience.

The protagonist, who has no name and so thus her innocence is highlighted, is a just graduated governess who travels from a British town to Munich to work as a tutor for a German family. She has never been abroad and, because of her ingenuousness, we can suppose she has neither been out nor away very often, and, as in the story there isn’t any mention of her family, we can think she has to be an orphan or an illegitimate daughter who has been raised in an institution and then sent to a boarding school, a case that wasn’t unusual in Great Britain in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century.

The lady from the Governess Bureau who has found her a position in Augsburg, near Munich, gives her a lot of cautions to survive from all the dangers she is going to encounter during her trip. Perhaps this is the reason why the girl is afraid of everything and everybody. She is so afraid that she tends to behave clumsily to people she suspects they want to swindle or take advantage of her; but then, these people who have to serve her are even ruder.

On the ferry which crosses the English Channel, she accommodates in the cabin for women only and there she feels safe and happy. But when she arrives in France and has to take the train, the porter, or the station master, treats the poor girl very coarsely, and, when she doesn’t want to give him the tip, or pay the price he asks for, he takes his revenge leading a man to her carriage for Ladies Only and even stripping off the restrictive sign that would have protected her from male company.

However, the man in her carriage is old, extremely old, she believes; but he seems a very polite and respectable gentleman from Germany; we even know he has been a civil servant, and eventually our governess imagines that a man like him could have been her grandfather.

The little governess destination is a hotel in Munich where her employer, a wife’s doctor, is going to pick her up at six in the evening, and, as the train is arriving in the morning, the kind old man suggests her that would be interesting for her to pay a visit to the beautiful city, and he offers her to be her cicerone. The young woman has some doubts, but eventually accepts.

At the hotel, the girl again behaves clumsily, this time with the waiter, when she doesn’t want to tip him. Moreover, this waiter suspects there is an illicit relationship between her and the old man.

So the girl and the old man go round Munich to see the sights. The man is perhaps a little bit too attentive because he buys her some sausages, pays for her lunch, offers his umbrella and his arm when it’s raining…

When it’s time (and even late) to go back to the hotel to meet her employer, the old man insists her to show his little flat, telling her that she doesn’t have to worry because there is a housekeeper. But when she goes in, there’s nobody in his bachelor’s house; there he offers her some wine and asks her to give him a kiss; and, as she denies it, he assaults her and tries to steal a kiss in the mouth, and really he gets it. The girl defends herself, gets free and runs away from the flat. Now she has discovered the old man’s true nature.

In the street, she asks a policeman for a tram to the station, where her hotel is, but she doesn’t say anything about the assault. On the tram, although everybody can see she is in trouble, nobody offers to help her. In the end, she gets to the hotel and asks for the lady that had to come to pick her up. But the girl has arrived too late, and the lady, being tired of waiting, has gone away.

And now the waiter has had his revenge, because he has told the lady that the girl had gone with a suspicious man. Moreover, he doesn’t tell the girl if the woman is going to come back to pick her up the next day, so the governess is in a big trouble: she doesn’t know if the lady is going to keep the position for her. What is she going to do now?


As you can see, this story is very different from the others we have read by Katherine Mansfield: there is a continuum and a crescendo in the narrative, and we foresee that a disgrace is going to fall down upon the girl. We can see the famous cliché about appearances being deceptive. We can also find a kind of morality in the story: don’t trust anybody because they can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In fact, this story is a Mansfield version of the Red Riding Hood, the famous tale for children. However, the primitive tale ended badly, like Mansfield’s, very differently from the modern versions whose intention is entertaining children without frightening them. So, the question will be: what kind of truths must we tell our children: the real cruel ones or the sweet and perhaps false ones?



-Do you agree with people who don’t want to take their children to a public school? Do you think it’s better a public education than a private one?

-“It’s better to mistrust people at first sight than to trust them.” Is it your opinion too? Why?

-Do you have a point of view about these “ladies’ compartments”? Do you think they are necessary to protect women?

-The way she treated the porter (and the waiter at the hotel), was it a bit haughty?

-Are her fears for real, or only fancies of an inexpert woman?

-“Most old men were so horrid.” According to you, is this most young people’s opinion?

-When and why does she start to trust the old man?

-“She felt she had known him for years.” When do you say this about a new acquittance?

-“His hand shook, and the wine spilled over the tray.” What happened exactly to the old man in his flat?

-Why the tram was “full of old men with twitching knees”, according to what the little governess saw?

-Is this a moral story? What is its morality?



porter, rub up, tucked up, pink-sprigged, pounced, cinders, flicking, spick and span, doddery, tangerines, pouted, dimpled, attar, cupped, swooped 




Little Red Riding Hood, by Roald Dahl

Freeway (a cinema version of the tale)

Susanna and the Elders

Marriage à la Mode, by Katherine Mansfield

SUMMARY, by Nora Carranza

It was Saturday afternoon and William was about to take a train in London, as he did many previous Saturdays. He felt sorrow for not having bought a suitable present for the kids, Paddy and Johnny, who awaited happily for the arrival of their dad because of his presents. 

The kids got annoyed when they obtained the same boxes of sweets William used to buy at the station.

As he intended to offer some different gifts, he made his decision for fruits: a melon and a pineapple. That matter of toys and objects for the children wasn’t an easy subject for William. His wife, Isabel, disapproved of the varied toys their children had, and destroyed them considering them typical and usual objects for children to play, a bad influence for the infant’s education and emotions.

It seems that there was a “new Isabel”, with new ideas, living in a new house, surrounded by new friends, a group of young poets, who, for instance, eagerly enjoy the children’s sweets. So, William, with disgust, imagine one of them lapping up a slice of the melon he had already bought.

The train arrived at the crowded platform, William looked for the first-class smoker carriage, where he got comfortable in a corner and began to concentrate in his professional papers, while the usual bad distress in his breast diminished.

After a time travelling, his attention moved from his papers to the landscape, and as every Saturday, the images he contemplated drove him to Isabel. William thought about the New Isabel and the previous Isabel.

William remembered when, some time ago, coming back from his office, he met his loved family in the little white house, the one with blue curtains and beautiful petunias. But then, William had no idea about the inconvenience that little house represented for Isabel. He didn’t imagine Isabel felt lonely, disliked the Nanny and was willing to know interesting people and attend to cultural activities.

William also remembered the holidays the family used to have, how he and Isabel enjoyed being young, eating and sleeping together. But now, the New Isabel would be horrified with this kind of sentimentalism in her husband.

The New Isabel had found congenial people, could go about more, and she lived in a new house surrounded by new amazing friends, a new, large house, where William felt strange and where Isabel accused him of being tragic and dull.

The train arrived at the station, William saw her waiting for him, beautiful and alone, and for a moment, he had the illusion that nobody else had gone with Isabel to the station…, but he was mistaken because all the others ―Bill Hunt, Dennis Green and Moira Morrison― waited outside in the taxi. He could only say, “Oh!”

The taxi went to the shop where Bobby Kane had been choosing sweets because of their divine colours and aspect. He went out to meet the group and, as the shopman ran after him claiming for the money, Isabel has to pay for the sweets.

Isabel laughed when William explained the fruits were for the kids and said they would suffer agonies eating them, although she and Moira were delighted with the melon and pineapple.

After tea, William found himself alone, the kiddies were asleep, and the poets were off to bathe. He went to the sitting room, and there he discovered paintings on the walls and ashtrays full of cigarette ends everywhere.

The bathers came back, altering the quiet of the garden, asking for music, making snob jokes, until they had supper, eating and drinking a lot. Isabel filled glasses and changed plates. In the end, they all felt tired and went to bed.

The next afternoon, waiting for the taxi, William was finally alone with Isabel, but nevertheless he felt there was nothing to say.

Isabel mentioned they almost hadn’t seen each other, it has been so a short time, the children have been out… The next time!

The taxi arrived, Isabel said goodbye, gave a quick kiss to William and went inside.

When he was seated on the train with his arms around the pain in his breast, he began to write mentally a letter for Isabel, the New Isabel.

When the post arrived, the indolent group were sitting outside the house. The letter to Isabel had pages and pages, and began with “My darling, precious Isabel”.

William didn’t want to be a nuisance to her happiness.

Isabel passed through different emotions: fear, astonishment, confusion, and finally she laughed a lot.

She was asked to read out the letter and, as she did, they all went making laugh and fun about the moving William’s words.

Isabel run up to her bedroom, resenting the vain behaviour of her friends, while they were calling her from the garden, “Come for a bathe”!

Isabel knew she should stay and write to William, she had to decide! But, oh, it was too difficult! Better later… and Isabel ran downstairs laughing.


In this story, the group of poets appears like indolent, unproductive people. They don’t care about responsibilities in their life, nor respect the person who really works and whom they owe meals, house and entertainments. Even Isabel shares their inconsistent way of life.

I think these are common traits for many artists, like writers, painters, musicians, philosophers, sensitive people, absorbed in their creative mind, that must keep apart from every day’s matters to go on with their artistic or intellectual creation.

But other artists or thinkers can produce excellent works, earning a living by them, and keeping active compromise with the world they live in.

What could be the circumstances or conditions that determine which one of these ways a gifted person has to live in?



-Do you always take things to your family / friends when you go away? What kind of things do you usually take?

-Should taste be taught? Who decides tastes in a person life?

-How can you define a snob person? Remember, “snob” comes from “sans noblesse”, that is “without nobility”.

-In the story, Isabel has changed after meeting some artists ang going to Paris with Moira. Do you think a friend, a book, a travel, can change radically a person?

-William is a grey, dull person that works in an office. He has traditional points of view and prejudices (“Hysterical”, of a girl running along the station.) And Isabel is lively, extrovert. Can personality decide about your job / loves / happiness? Give examples.

-Isabel new friends are a group of artists. What can you tell about the group of artists in La Dolce Vita? Can you compare the couple in La vie d’Adèle to William and Isabel?

-What is the touchstone to know what is really like a person?

-What do you know about the Ecclesiastes?

-In the station, when William goes back to London, Isabel wants to carry his suitcase. What do you thing about the traditional politeness to women?

-In your opinion, does Isabel really love William / their children? And what about William?

-Why did she laugh reading his letter? Will she write to him at the end?

-According to your view, who is right in their disagreement?



hard lines, ribbing, scrapped, poky, chambers, pinning, plait, wad, wiles, paper


ANOTHER AUDIOBOOK (from minute 32:59)

Marriage à la Mode, by William Hogarth

Line of beauty, by Hogarth



Something Childish but very Natural, by Katherine Mansfield


This is a love story between Henry (17) and Edna (16). They are very young, so we have to suppose very inexperienced about love, but also very pure and innocent.

Henry is a clerk in an architect office, and he thinks he’s great into books, although he hasn’t read many, and he doesn’t have many. Edna is a student in a training college; she wants to be a secretary.

One day, at Charing Cross station, Henry almost misses his train because, as it has a stop of ten minutes, leaving his hat and a portfolio in his carriage, he gets off to look at the books in the station bookstall and, when he is reading a poem from a book, he hears the station master announcing that the train is leaving, and Henry has to hurry up. He runs to the nearest carriage and dashes into it. But it’s not his, and he feels embarrassed because there is another passenger, a girl, and he has not his hat on. He notices the girl’s hair and falls in love with it. In the end, he gathers courage to say something, and they begin a bit of conversation. And when Edna points to the mark his hat has left on his forehead, he feels he’s definitely in love with her. He asks her to meet again, and she tells him that she takes the same train every day.

So they meet again, and they start a kind of love affair, they tell each other about their jobs, their families… He asks her to see her hair, and reluctantly she takes off her hat, but she doesn’t allow him to touch it.

And during their courtship, he can’t even go near her and, much less, kiss her. However, Henry isn’t angry with her, he is patient and understanding and can wait. Edna knows that he wants some more closeness and understands his desires, but, at the moment, she can’t bear being touched. She prefers keeping some distance between them, as if they were still children, and not already teenagers. But they both dream being together, living together, and they imagine having a house and behaving like husband and wife.

But after a time, Henry is a little tired of waiting for a kiss or a caress, he hungers for physical contact. One day, in an excursion, when they stop to have tea, the landlady offers them a cottage to rent. They go and see it, and they like it very much. They can figure it could be their home. Eventually, Edna lets him hold her, and tells him she has wanted all day to tell him that he could kiss her. They decide to rent the house.

But when Henry waits for Edna the day they have to begin to inhabit the cottage, she doesnt come. Instead of her, there comes a little girl with a telegram for Henry. We don’t know what is there in the message, neither whose it is from, although we can imagine. He opens it, reads it, and the world around him gets wrapped in darkness.



-Why do you think the girl doesn’t want any physical contact?

-In your opinion, a romantic mood, is it only possible when you are young?

-Do you think love without sex is going to work? Or is this idea sexist?

-What can be the meaning of the Swiss cow-bell, the silver shoe and the fish hanging of Edna’s bangle?

-Why is hair so powerful a sexual symbol, according to your view?

-“Have you ever been in love before?” is a very unusual declaration of love. Do you know any other singular one? E.g., this one.

-Some people say love is a kind of illness that only lasts three years. What is your opinion?

-Can children be in love, or is love something you only find in teenagers and adults?

-When they are at the tea house in the country, and the woman offers to rent a cottage, do you think Henry has planned it previously? (remember he had been there often)

-And when the woman asked if they were brother and sister, why does Henry answer yes?

-When they are in the cottage, do they really kiss? Why do you think so?

-What does the telegram say? What is Henry going to do now?



soot, spangle, pap, clutched, marigold, wreath, utter, curb, training college, nests, loathsome, winding up, raked out, caretakers, heather, jonquils, Bags I


Something Childish, but very Natural, poem

Film (from minute 29:48)




A Cup of Tea, by Katherine Mansfield

SUMMARY, by Aurora Ledesma

The story was written in January 1922 in the space of just 4–5 hours, and was published in a popular magazine, the “Story-Teller”, in May of the same year.

Rosemary was a wealthy woman, who had been married for two years to a very rich man, Philip Fell, who adored his family. Though she was not very pretty, she made up for it as she lived in extreme style and fashion. She always enjoyed organizing parties for important people and artists. She liked shopping in a perfect florist’s in Regent Street and also loved collecting antiques.

One rainy winter afternoon, after leaving an antique shop, Rosemary felt a bit upset, because she had not been able to buy an exquisite little box.  Suddenly a poor young girl came up to her and asked for the price of a cup of tea. Rosemary thought of doing something generous, like in the novels of Dostoevsky, and invited her to her house. Rosemary wanted to show that those nice things that happened in novels and fairy tales, about generous rich people, happened in real life also. At the beginning, the girl didn’t believe Rosemary, even suspected that the lady might hand her over to the police, but at last Rosemary took her home.

When they arrived at Rosemary’s house, she took the girl up to her bedroom and made her sit near the fire on a comfortable chair. Rosemary even had to help her take off her coat and hat, because she was very weak, but threw them on the floor. The poor girl cried and complained that life was too hard and that she was so tired of living. Then Rosemary consoled her and asked her servant to bring some food and tea.

When she was going to begin asking the girl about her life, her husband Philip came in. He was astonished to see the girl in his wife’s room, and he asked her to go to the library, where he tried to tell her that she couldn’t have a stranger in the house. Facing a refusal, he used the old jealousy trick and he praised the girl’s beauty. So Rosemary went out of the library, took three pounds, gave them to the girl and sent her away.

Afterwards, Rosemary dressed up, put on some makeup and tried to attract the attention of her husband. At the end, Rosemary didn’t know if she was pretty enough for him, and she wasn’t sure if Philip loved her either.


Some Reflections

In this story we can find some topical themes that the writer repeats in many other stories: The prominence of women, the social classes, the oppression of the poor by the rich, the materialism of the main characters etc. But in “A Cup of Tea” we also find the appearance in contrast to reality. Rosemary on the surface seems kind by taking care of the girl. However, her intentions are something else. She wants to receive the admiration of her “friends”. The reality of her intentions is full of hypocrisy. She helps the girl for her own interest.
Rosemary is also a prototype of jealousy and insecurity. When Philips praises the girl’s beauty, she forgets her good intentions and sends the girl away.


-How can you explain the differences between beautiful and pretty? Can you give some examples?
-The protagonist says “I hate lilac”. And the attendant “put the lilac out of sight”. So strong of the power of money? Can you give some more curious examples?
-Remember the seller in the “antique shop”: can you give some tips as to how to be a very good shopkeeper?
-Why would / wouldn’t you buy second hand things?
-What do you think of philanthropy? Do you think it’s a way to help poor people, or you think it’s useless for the poor and hypocrisy for the donor?
-Are all the women sisters (in their fight for their rights)?
-Are rich people more natural than poor people? Do you think very rich people belong to another species? Is it easy to recognize them?
-“If people wanted helping, they must respond a little”. How true is this sentence? Must you always accept charity?
-Is being very formal a feature of rich people, like when Philip says “Oh, what’s happened? Previous engagement?”


duck, beamed, cherub, plied, vile, pick-up, bowled over


The Stranger, by Katherine Mansfield


Mrs Hammond has been ten months away from home visiting her eldest daughter in Europe. Now the ship in which she has been travelling has stopped outside Auckland harbour for no apparent reason. A doctor has been sent for to go on board, and this situation lasts for a couple of hours.

Meanwhile, Mr Hammond, who has come from Napier where he lives, has been waiting with a number of people for the ship docking. Mr Hammond has been very nervous and agitated: he has paced up and down the wharf, he has lifted and girl on a barrel and then forgotten her, he has felt his heart beating… He has wondered if his wife had been ill on board...

Finally, the ship has berthed and is moored. Mr Hammond runs to greet his wife Janey; he goes on board to help her with the luggage. He is very excited because he wants to be alone with her and have some intimacy. He has even left their children at home and has booked a room in a hotel to spend at least a night together before going back to Napier with the family.

But before going away from the boat, Mrs Hammond wants to thank the captain and to say goodbye to her traveller mates, and Mr Hammond realizes her wife is very popular and he feels proud of her and likes her the more. But then, when she wants to say goodbye to the doctor, Mr Hammond is afraid again thinking that perhaps his wife has been ill during the passage, and what is more, he suspects that something singular (he doesn’t know what) has happened.

He longs to get some hours alone with his wife, but her responses to his desires are distant or cold. When they arrive to the hotel, he’s so in a hurry that he didn’t even greet his mates there: he wants to be immediately in their room. Alone with his wife, he doesn’t want to go down to the restaurant to have dinner. But he is a bit confused because of this lack of tenderness in his wife: she’s been ten months away!

In the end, she tells him why she’s in a so melancholic mood: a young passenger has died in her arms. He had felt sick and, according to the doctor, he has had a heart attack. Mr Hammond is more unsettled when he knows she was alone with the young man before and in the moment of his death. And he feels jealous, he feels he won’t be alone with his wife ever more. A dead man has beaten him to the punch, and he’ll never be able to get a rematch.

Jealousy, or envy, is in this case a contradictory feeling, because the object which spurs it doesn’t exist any more; so it’s like striking in the air, it’s a ghost and you’ll never be able to defeat it.

But is he really jealous, or he’s only disappointed because he couldn’t get satisfaction for his intimacy?



-At the beginning of the story it seems that the ship waiting near the harbour is in quarantine. What do you remember about the quarantine in the beginning of 2020? Where does the word “quarantine” come from (because sometimes means 15 days and in our case lasted 3 months)?

-What resources use the author to give us the impression that Mr Hammond is very anxious to meet his wife?

-When does he start to being jealous? Is jealousy a feature of a character, or it’s something you can feel all of a sudden? Is really a bad thing (morally) being jealous? Is it something you learn, or does it belong to the human nature?

-What can be the difference between “well-meaning envy” and “green envy”? Give examples.

-At the end of the story, we can see that a dead man has “replaced” or “overcame” the husband. James Joyce did something similar in his story The Dead. Why in the story is the bond with the dead man so strong? What do you think of the famous sentence in The Little Prince, by Saint Exupéry, “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed [or saved]”?



crinkled, galley, stern, snugly, glasses, roped, liner, dent, thrum, wheezed, raked, rot, bee-line, pikestaff, took it all, put off, butting in, chucked, thirsted, hover

The Daughters of the Late Colonel, by Katherine Mansfield


The story deals with the memories, feelings and perspectives of a couple of spinsters a week after their father’s death. The action takes place in a brief lapse of time inside the house, and there’s a lot of dialogue, so it’s almost a play for the theatre. The sisters talk about the things they have to do following their father’s funeral. They speak about giving or not their father’s top hat to the porter, about the convenience or not of dying black her dressing gowns, about not paying the nurse for having been invited to stay with them a week after the decease, about sending their father’s watch to his son Benny, who lives in Ceylon, or to give it to his grandson Cyril who lives in London, about having or not the holy communion, about arranging and disposing of their father’s things, about dismissing or not the maid now they don’t need a cook to prepare colonel’s meals any more…

They discuss all these questions, and they have a lot of doubts as to take a decision for the most of them, for all their lives they had been under the authority of a tyrannical father, and now they are at a loss about how to deal with the things to do. We have to suppose their father was a soldier serving in India (not an easy post), who treated his children with military discipline to the point of annulling their wills. And this strict education was aggravated because their mother died when they were very young.

Now, Josephine, or Jug, and Constantia, or Con, cannot get rid of the feeling that, even now, they are under their father’s authority, and even, when they know he’s dead and buried, feel his presence: they imagine he’s watching them, that he’ll raise from the tomb and scold them for having buried him, they imagine that if now they shut him in a cupboard, he’ll fight to get out, dead as he is. For they remember the exact moment when he died, when he opened only one threatening eye to look at them angrily, just before passing away.

So these two girls had spent their lives taking care of their father, bore his angers, his quarrels with the family friends, and bore to be isolated from the society, and thus having the possibility of finding a husband who would carry them away from their home-barrack hindered. No suitor would approach them with a so unpleasant father, a father more bent to chase them away than to allure them. Jug and Con couldn’t even ask their brother Benny for help, because we can imagine that he followed his father’s calling, career and character, as he lives in a remote part of Ceylon.

But the two sisters were (and are still) not only afraid of their father, but of the maid, a woman who has adopted the colonel’s character and treats the sisters with a contempt and rudeness improper of a servant.

Their sense of abandonment, fear and indecision reaches its highpoint at the end of the story, when they wanted to say something to each other, and they cannot (or perhaps don’t want to) remember what was it.

The story is a sad and a hopeless: we can imagine how secluded, monotonous and even poor their life has been until now, and how it’ll be for them in the future: they cannot even cook! But this topic isn’t new in the literature of the 19th and 20th centuries; the novelty is the way Mansfield tells it. We find funny or surprising moments in her narrative, as when they laugh imagining their father’s hat on the porter, when they imagine dying their dressing gowns, when Con worries about the poor mice, when Jug is afraid her father will be angry when he discovers that they had buried him, when Jug wanted Con to be the first to go into their father’s dormitory because she is taller, when they feel his presence inside the chest of drawers and then locked the wardrobe, when they imagine so vividly Benny’s life that we believe we’re seeing him, although it’s only a sisters’ fantasy; we also get confused with Cyril’s visit, because at the beginning we don’t know if it takes place before his grandfather’s death or after; we don’t know either what to think when they don’t want the holy communion because of minor details like the difficulty of finding a place for the altar, when they remember they gave money to the barrel organ to stop the music, not as a tip for it, etc.

And then, as usually, Mansfield offers us some mysterious details that have to be symbols open to infinite interpretations: the top hat, the dressing gowns, the watch and the box they wanted to send it with, the shortened names, the boa, the snake, the barrel organ, the meringue, Con lying on the floor with her arms outstretched, the tunnel…
And finally one cannot help praising Mansfield’s ear for the dialogues; one cannot help thinking what a master of the spoken words she was: the characters talk so fluently, so naturally, that one can imagine really hearing their voices.


-What do you know about etiquette at funerals?
-What has to be your attitude in a funeral? You cannot laugh there, but how can you avoid a laughing fit?
-According to your experience, is mourning for public appearances or for a personal feeling?
-Beside the black clothes, what else you do to show you’re in mourning?

-Obituary and epitaph: do you have your own ones composed? What do you know about the Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters?

-What last words or last gestures of famous people (or not famous) do you know? E.g.: Please, believe me if I tell you that I would like my last sentence was: “I have no choice but to die; I apologize for any inconvenience.”

-In your view, what are the meaning of these symbols:

the top hat, the dressing gowns, the watch and the box they wanted to send it with, the shortened names, the boa, the snake, the barrel organ, the meringue, Con lying on the floor with her arms outstretched, the tunnel…

-What do you think is going to happen to the sisters in the future?



heaved, dyed, shrieked, scurry, crumbs, tabbies, marmalade, appallingly, gimcrack, bold, callous, told on, runners, rocker, blow-out, breezily, brooded, give Kate notice, bypath, made a face, mantelpiece, thieved




FILM (from minute 25:44)