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Individuality And Dependence In Mansfield’s “The Daughters Of The Late Colonel”

643 words - 3 pages

Katherine Mansfield, a writer known for challenging her readers’ notion of femininity, manages in “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” to further challenge the perception of women in twentieth century society. Mansfield outlines a relationship between two sisters, Josephine and Constantia; as well, Mansfield frames each woman’s struggle in coping with the loss of her father, Colonel Pinner. Each sister is dependent on the late Colonel and without him this dependence becomes over exaggerated and mindless. In part XII, the women seem to achieve a moment of enlightenment but by the end, each woman’s sense of clarity is gone. Mansfield explores each sister’s own female individuality despite a lack of maternal guidance. Even though both have an intrinsic sense of independence embedded deep within their feminine selves, Mansfield reveals to her readers that each sister has become dependent on a male-dominated society; thus, neither can fully grasp insight into her existence as a woman.
Part XII is pivotal as both sisters come to the realization that the Colonel is gone. As the organ player strikes up his music, Constantia and Josephine both realize that their father’s role in the household will never again be superior (2579). It is through this realization that both sisters are given the opportunity to attain enlightenment. Constantia’s usual manner is changed at her moment of realization as she “[has] such a strange smile; she look[s] different” when she realizes that her father has been dead a week (2579). Josephine “[forgets] to be practical and sensible” as she too “smile[s] faintly, strangely” (2579). Mansfield uses similar punctuation and repetition in her portrayal of each sister’s insight, comparing the two to each other; however, she then contrasts the two women by having Constantia drawn to “[the] big pale, moon” and Josephine drawn to the “gentle beams” of sunlight. Constantia’s contemplation of her own...

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