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Emotions in Narrative: A Linguistic Study of Katherine Mansfield’s Short Fiction – Päivi Kuivalainen

The Electronic Journal of the Department of English
at the University of Helsinki

ISSN 1457-9960

Volume 5, 2009

Emotions Issue

© 2009 Päivi Kuivalainen


Emotions in Narrative:

A Linguistic Study of Katherine Mansfield’s Short Fiction

Päivi Kuivalainen

University of Helsinki



This article discusses how emotions are depicted in two Katherine Mansfield’s short stories, ”Bliss” and ”Taking the Veil”. Emotions are mapped through linguistic markers such as adjectives and adverbs that imply a character’s emotional response to story events. The study focuses on narratorial discourse and distinguishes between verbalized speech and thought (free indirect discourse) and non-verbalised thought-processes (psycho-narration). The analysis is carried out by studying the deictic centre or the perspective in the short stories. The study shows that passages of psycho-narration and free indirect discourse are rich in emotional language, including such features as interjections, repetition and orthographic markers.


1. Introduction

Emotions often play a significant role in depicting a literary character’s mind. This study discusses how characters’ emotions are depicted in two Katherine Mansfield’s short stories, ”Bliss” and ”Taking the Veil”.1 The focus is on those sections in Mansfield’s stories that depict characters’ psyches and feelings. The analysis maps the features that imply the presence of consciousness or perspective in Katherine Mansfield’s texts. The analysis is carried out by studying linguistic features such as adjectives, adverbs and orthography to find out whose consciousness and emotions are depicted in the text.

Consciousness report is an umbrella term for several techniques that share some common features in depicting characters’ consciousness. This study focuses on the interplay between psycho-narration, the narrator’s rendering of characters’ psyches or their non-verbalised thought processes, and free indirect discourse, the narrator’s indirect quotation of the words that the characters say or think, their verbalised speech or thought. Both free indirect discourse and psycho-narration depict character speech within the framework of third person narrative, and in Mansfield’s stories characters’ feelings are often filtered through the narrator’s discourse .2

There are also feelings that the characters may be unaware of but that the narrator reports to the reader. For this reason, the focus of the study is on the narrator’s description of characters’ emotions, as psycho-narration and free indirect discourse are narrator’s discourse by nature. The differences between psycho-narration and free indirect discourse are illustrated in another example from Mansfield, a story called ”The Doll’s House” (see subsection 2.3).

In analysing characters’ emotions perspective plays an important role. Perspective tells the reader whose point of view is adopted in the text. Perspective is realised through visuo-spatial or temporal indicators that are also called deictic features (see subsection 2.1). The first aim of the analysis is to pinpoint the deictic features that imply the presence of consciousness or emotional involvement in ”Bliss” and ”Taking the Veil”. The second aim is to study consciousness report that is often marked by reporting devices such as evaluative adjectives and adverbs, or other perspective-building elements such as backshifting of tenses and orthographic markers. The analysis is based on linguistic evidence in sections of psycho-narration or free indirect discourse with reference to characters’ emotions and emotional changes. When a fictional character’s feelings change, the readers may also change their views of that character (Miall and Kuiken 2001: 291). Thus, changing emotions affect the reader’s interpretation of the story. The next section takes a closer look at the linguistic features that indicate characters’ emotions depicted in psycho-narration and free indirect discourse.

 2. Linguistic Features in the Representation of Character Emotions

This section discusses linguistic features that imply psycho-narration and free indirect discourse. In the first subsection, the connection between the deictic centre and emotions is explained. The second subsection takes a look at specific reporting devices and features that indicate a deictic centre. In the third part, psycho-narration and free indirect discourse are discussed with examples from Mansfield’s ”Doll’s House”.

 2.1 Deixis and Deictic Centre

Emotions are an essential part of depicting a literary character’s consciousness. In analysing emotions or characters’ consciousness deixis is a useful tool. Deixis means ”features of language which fasten utterances temporally or spatially: ‘here’, ‘now’” (Hawthorn 1994: 37). Consciousness presentation becomes apparent through many indicators, most clearly through orthographic markers such as quotation marks or words in italics. Orthographic markers are especially used in direct discourse where quotation marks show the beginning and ending of a dialogue. Parentheticals or brackets indicating the speaker and his or her act of speaking or thinking within a sentence, for example, ”she said” or ”he thought” are also used in direct discourse to indicate the speaking or thinking person. As these markers seldom occur in consciousness report, however, there are other markers like expressive elements that help to identify the consciousness and emotions in an extract. Thus, linguistic analysis helps to find out which features refer to which character.

Studying linguistic features is a key element in analyzing the deictic centre of the short stories in this paper. In the English language, deixis consists of features that indicate a subjective deictic centre (Fludernik 1993: 6). The features include personal pronouns, for example I, you, it; spatial and temporal adverbs such as left, in front of, ten years ago; verbal categories indicating distance like come and go; relational designations implying emotional involvement, for instance the enemy or darling; and terms of endearment, such as sweetheart and mummy, which also suggest that the speaker’s feelings are involved. Another way to trace a perspective is to study lexical, pragmatic, syntactic and morphological features indicating consciousness report. Deixis and subjective elements play a crucial role in analysing the material of this paper.

The two other types of deixis are discourse/text deixis and social deixis (cf. Levinson 1983). Discourse deixis or text deixis refers to parts of unfolding discourse in which the utterance is located, for instance that in the following example: ”Puff puff puff: That is what it sounded like.” Social deixis encodes the social status and aspects of social relationships between speakers and addressees: ”My husband and I are both teachers, and so is my father” (Levinson 1983: 62-63).

Deixis is usually organised in an egocentric way. The deictic context is speaker-based and centred upon the speaker’s ”here-and-now” (Lyons 1981: 230). People are more apt to refer to their own viewpoint in discussions and prefer proximal personal expressions, such as the pronoun I, or place indexicals, such as here, to distal expressions like he or there. We can also talk about a deictic centre, meaning the perspective of the discourse participant from which utterances are delivered (Levinson 1983: 63-64, Yule 1996: 9). There are five unmarked anchorage points that constitute the deictic centre (Levinson 1983: 64). They consist of the speaker who is the central person – in literature usually the protagonist, the narrator or some other character – and of the central place which refers to the speaker’s location at utterance time. The third anchorage point of the deictic centre is the central time, the time when the speaker produces the utterance. Fourth, the discourse centre is the speaker’s current point during the production of his or her utterance. Thus, the discourse centre changes from one person to another when the producer of the utterance changes.  And last, the social centre is the speaker’s social status and rank to which the addressee or referent’s status is relative (Yule 1996: 10).

Another common deictic phenomenon in language is the transference of human body orientation (Fludernik 1993: 49). This method is used extensively in literature to create the illusion of naturalness. When an author uses this technique in a literary text, he or she describes an event, a phenomenon or space from a certain physical viewpoint that demands the reader’s body orientation, as in the sentence ”There was a chair to the left” (Fludernik 1993: 49). To sum up, literary texts create a world of their own, including their own deictic structure. In good narratives, the reader has the impression of experiencing the fictional world directly, because he or she adopts the deictic centre as his or her own (cf. Banfield 1982, Zubin and Hewitt 1995: 131).

2.2 Reporting Devices

This section introduces other linguistic features that are used in creating deictic centres in narratives. The devices consist of backshifting of tenses and other perspective-building elements, such as adjectives and adverbs, orthographic markers and textual coherence.

The first device, backshifting of tenses, is connected with the ”was-now” paradox, an especially interesting feature in literature. The ”was” encodes the narrator in the process of narrating, introducing the fictional world mode to the reader. The ”now” encodes the protagonist for whom the story world events are part of the current experience (cf. Adamson 1994). Mansfield sometimes uses the present tense in her stories, which attracts the reader’s attention and raises the question of why the ”was-now” principle is violated. The change in tenses suggests a change in perspectives, including a change in the feeling experience of the story’s characters. The implications of these linguistic devices for the characters’ emotional world are discussed in section 3.

In the analysis of the deictic centre and literary figures’ emotions, adjectives and adverbs sometimes have a significant meaning. I apply Biber, Conrad and Leech’s (2002) classification of adjectives and adverbs in this study. Descriptive adjectives or descriptors often imply consciousness report when they co-occur with other deictic elements such as place and time deixis. Evaluative/emotive (dreadful) and miscellaneous descriptors covering many kinds of characteristics (sudden) suggest consciousness report in narratives and need to be studied to trace the source of emotions in a literary text. Descriptive adjectives give personal flavour to the text, but the reader has to decide whether descriptors refer to the narrator’s or some character’s emotions. Sometimes it may be very difficult to distinguish different sources of emotion from each other, as examples from Mansfield’s stories show (see section 3).

In the analysis of Mansfield’s texts, degree adverbs and stance adverbs receive special attention. Degree adverbs like amplifiers/intensifiers (generously) and diminishers/downtoners (somewhat) as well as stance adverbs, such as attitude (unfortunately), epistemic (probably) and style stance adverbs (simply) are discussed in the analysis of the material, as are place, time and process adverbials. Of place adverbials, those of distance (a long way), direction (from within) and position (up there) often imply whose perspective is adopted in the story. Additionally, such time adverbials as point in time (tomorrow night), duration (for fifteen years), frequency (sometimes) and time relationship (after this) indicate the source of consciousness. The process of action described in stories provides the reader with valuable information on the events and characters. Manner adverbials (carelessly) are often used especially by modern authors to describe characters’ behaviour. Degree adverbials (e.g. very much, completely) are often used to amplify characters’ emotions and to describe their emotional response to story events.

Adjectives and adverbs are elements in constructing perspective in a narrative. They help the reader to respond to the feeling experiences of a character that are embodied in the stylistic and linguistic devices of a text (Miall and Kuiken 2001: 292). The following subchapter discusses the connection between linguistic features and feeling experiences in psycho-narration and free indirect discourse.

 2.3 Psycho-narration and Free Indirect Discourse

In this section the features of psycho-narration and free indirect discourse are discussed with examples from Mansfield’s story ”The Doll’s House”. Special attention is paid to linguistic devices that support the interpretation of psycho-narration or free indirect discourse in a textual passage.

Psycho-narration is the narrator’s presentation of a character’s psyche. Its main focus is on a character’s thoughts and feelings and it is defined in terms of deictic qualities (Fludernik 1993: 304).3 Psycho-narration reports those feelings or states of consciousness that the character may be unaware of. Psycho-narration ”has almost unlimited temporal flexibility” (Cohn 1978: 32), so it can occur both in the present and the past tense. The analysis of Mansfield’s works shows the temporal varieties of psycho-narration.

Free indirect discourse consists of expressions or utterances that could be produced by the characters as such or with minor alterations, like the use of the preterite instead of the present tense.4 In free indirect discourse the narrator quotes the speech or thought of the protagonist or other characters. Direct discourse and free indirect discourse have common features such as deictics, word order in questions and lexical elements including vocatives, interjections, or dialectal features (cf. Fludernik 1993: 261). In order to retain proximity, proximal deictics like here, now and today occur in free indirect discourse. The question word order remains direct in free indirect discourse. This narrative technique also favours expressive lexical elements from characters’ idiolects to give the narration personal flavour. McHale (1978: 269) aptly remarks that formal signs are not the only means to trace free indirect discourse, since semantic signs such as the ”content” of utterances, and a character’s ”thoughts” or ”intended meanings” also contribute to the reader’s interpretation of free indirect discourse.

The terms psycho-narration and free indirect discourse overlap to some extent. The former borrows elements from the speech of characters, but a character could hardly use the (narrator’s) syntax as such. To demonstrate the difference between the various consciousness report techniques, I have chosen an extract from Katherine Mansfield’s story ”The Doll’s House”. It is a story about middle-class life and the Burnell children, and how they invite classmates of the same social class to see their new doll’s house. Lower-class children are not invited, until one of the daughters, Kezia, defies her parents and asks the Kelvey girls, the daughters of a washerwoman, to see the house. The following extract depicts Kezia’s aunt’s reaction when she sees the unwelcome children in the garden.

(1)”Wicked, disobedient little girl!” said Aunt Beryl bitterly to Kezia, and she slammed the doll’s house to.

The afternoon had been awful. A letter had come from Willie Brent, a terrifying, threatening letter, saying if she did not meet him that evening in Pulman’s Bush, he’d come to the front door and ask the reason why! But now that she had frightened those little rats of Kelveys and given Kezia a good scolding, her heart felt lighter. That ghastly pressure was gone. She went back to the house humming. (”The Doll’s House”, 265; emphasis added)

Example (1) is a description of Aunt Beryl’s consciousness presentation after she has scolded her niece and her friends in the courtyard. After the quotation in direct discourse, Aunt Beryl’s perspective (in bold type) is introduced in the first sentences as a flashback, the past perfect verb form had come implying a movement towards Aunt Beryl, come being a verb suggesting proximal activity. Even though Beryl’s name is not mentioned in the whole paragraph, she is the subject of the sentence starting the quotation and the most recent character mentioned earlier in the text. Aunt Beryl and the third person reference to her (she) in the quotation can be seen as an example of referential linking which is an important factor in maintaining textual cohesion in the depiction of characters’ emotions (cf. Ehrlich 1990). Descriptive adjectives like awful, terrifying and threatening, and noun phrases like those little rats of Kelveys depict Beryl’s feelings, the distal demonstrative pronoun those and the descriptive noun phrase little rats of Kelveys underlining the contempt of upper classes towards lower-class people and the social distance between Beryl and the Kelveys. The distal demonstrative determiner that and the proximal temporal adverb now illustrate how proximal and distal linguistic features are mixed in psycho-narration, suggesting a transition from Aunt Beryl’s earlier emotional turmoil caused by her lover’s letter to her present state of mind (”…her heart felt lighter. That ghastly pressure was gone”).

There is also Willie Brent’s perspective occurring in the extract (in italics). It has elements of free indirect discourse including past tense verb forms, third person pronouns, orthographic markers and a colloquial tone.  The past perfect verb form changes into the past tense did not meet, which is followed by he’d come. An exclamation mark finishes the free indirect discourse passage which is reflected through Beryl’s consciousness in the memory of the letter. The final sentence is the narrator’s neutral report of the narrative events.

 3. Emotional Features in Mansfield’s Stories

Psycho-narration and free indirect discourse are ways of presenting characters’ emotions to readers. In this section, Katherine Mansfield’s stories ”Bliss” and ”Taking the Veil” are analysed in order to find linguistic features that suggest a character’s emotional involvement. Mansfield uses psycho-narration and free indirect discourse in ”Bliss” and ”Taking the Veil”. In the analysis of the texts, underlined words point out subjective features and fragments of characters’ idiom. Some quotations from Mansfield’s short stories are integrated into the analysis for a more convenient discussion of the context.

”Bliss” is a story of a wealthy young couple, Bertha and Harry, and their social life. In ”Bliss”, psycho-narrative description is reserved for Bertha’s feelings of bliss, her relationship with Harry-the-husband, and her feelings towards their friends. The paragraphs that include psycho-narration often start with impersonal narratorial description. The shift from the narrator’s perspective to that of the character takes place within paragraph boundaries, as the following examples show.

The first paragraph of ”Bliss” introduces society’s expectations of 30-year-old women’s behaviour. The narrator implies that Bertha’s thoughts and feelings are quite exceptional for her age:

(2) Although Bertha Young was thirty she still had moments like this when she wanted to run instead of walk, to take dancing steps on and off the pavement, to bowl a hoop, to throw something up in the air and catch it again, or to stand still and laugh at – nothing – at nothing, simply. (”Bliss”, 91; emphasis added)

The narrator adopts an omniscient perspective: she knows exactly how Bertha is feeling and what she feels like doing. The reader’s attention is directed towards the protagonist’s perspective through the use of the demonstrative this, symbolising the here-and-now narrative present, Bertha’s present state of mind. The italicised words imply Bertha’s wishes. The narrator’s speech presents society’s expectations at the beginning of example (2) (although, still) and Bertha’s own thoughts at the end of it (nothing – at nothing, simply).

The phenomenon of Ansteckung is apparent in the fragments of Bertha’s idiom. Ansteckung means the narrator’s empathetic or ironic borrowing of characters’ idioms or expressions (cf. Fludernik (1993) for examples of Ansteckung or ”contamination”). Fragments of Bertha’s consciousness are not complete thoughts or words uttered by her. When it comes to Bertha’s psyche, the narrator seems to be aware of it, depicting elements of Bertha’s thoughts at the end of example (2) (see the words in bold). It is obvious in the last sentence of example (2); dashes evoke Bertha’s consciousness. She is incapable of finding suitable words for the peculiar feeling; the impression is increased by the repeated words at nothing. The effect of immediacy is created by hints of Bertha’s psyche within narratorial discourse, suggesting that after the first part of the sentence the writer resorts to free indirect discourse at the end of the passage.

There are two longer paragraphs of psycho-narration in ”Bliss”. They discuss Bertha’s situation in life and her relationship with Harry. The first paragraph reads as follows:

(3) Really – really – she had everything. She was young. Harry and she were as much in love as ever, and they got on together splendidly and were really good pals. She had an adorable baby. They didn’t have to worry about money. They had this absolutely satisfactory house and garden. And friends – modern, thrilling friends, writers and painters and poets or people keen on social questions just the kind of friends they wanted. And then there were books, and there was music, and she had found a wonderful little dressmaker, and they were going abroad in the summer, and their new cook made the most superb omelettes(”Bliss”, 96; emphasis added)

Example (3) starts in free indirect discourse and shows many syntactic markers that imply consciousness report, such as the epistemic stance adverb really, the proximal deictic this indicating Bertha’s spatial perspective, and the frequent use of and acting as a clause-initial co-ordinating conjunction and creating the illusion of Bertha’s happy thoughts. Other features include pragmatic indicators, such as dashes, and lexical features, for example idioms (really good pals), phrases or descriptive adjectives (absolutely satisfactory, adorable, modern, thrilling, wonderful little etc.) borrowed from Bertha. As Fludernik (1993: 117) suggests, referential positions are often shifted into the third person in heterodiegetic narratives, excluding second person narratives. This extract is a good example of such a referential shift in personal pronouns, as it contains only the third person she instead of the first person I.

Example (3) describes a happy woman counting her blessings. Another paragraph reflects the problems Bertha encounters in her marriage:

(4) Oh, she had loved him she’d been in love with him, of course, in every other way, but just not in that way. And equally, of course, she’d understood that he was different. They’d discussed it so often. It had worried her dreadfully at first to find that she was so cold, but after a time it had not seemed to matter. They were so frank with each other such good pals. That was the best of being modern. (”Bliss”, 104; emphasis added)

The extract leads readers into Bertha’s consciousness with the clause-initial interjection oh suggesting free indirect discourse. Repetitive elements, such as of course and the intensifier so, emphasise the impression of Bertha rationalising her marriage to Harry. The sentence-initial and helps her to articulate her understanding of Harry and his different feelings on the topic, as she is negotiating the good and bad things about her marriage in her mind. There are also some lexical indications of consciousness report, such as just, the intensifier such, and dreadfully, a colloquialism only to be attached to Bertha’s consciousness. These emotive features create an impression of Bertha’s inner conflict and the suppression of her feelings, which is evident throughout the story.5

”Taking the Veil” is a story about Edna and her lover Jimmy, and Edna’s dreams of becoming a nun. In ”Taking the Veil”, psycho-narration is reserved for Edna’s internal debate and her memories of the crisis of her life. A typical example is a theatre scene, where Edna goes through the happenings of the previous night:

(5) The play had begun fairly cheerfully. That was at the chocolate almond stage. Then the hero had gone blind. Terrible moment! …Then there had been that ghastly scene with the hero alone on stage in a deserted room…He had tried ah, how painfully, how pitifully! – to grope his way to the window…and the band faded away into the distance. (”Taking the Veil”, 284; emphasis added) 

Example (5) shows how Mansfield uses distal deictics like that (in that ghastly scene) to imply Edna’s perspective by creating a personal tone. Additionally, she uses the evaluative adjectives terrible and ghastly to refer to Edna’s emotional response. The repetitive pattern in the exclamations above (in bold type) is separated from the rest of the psycho-narration by dashes and emphasised by other orthographic signals, such as exclamation marks. An introductory exclamation ah adds to the colloquial tone, as does the repetition of the wh-element how. Mansfield often uses clause-initial wh-elements in exclamations to introduce free indirect discourse in the telling (Kuivalainen 2005). These features contain elements representative of speech rather than thought. The impression in this extract is that of narratorial discourse flavoured by free indirect discourse (in bold type).

Psycho-narration continues when the narrator describes Edna’s internal debate:

(6) If she did not marry Jimmy, of course she would marry nobody. The man she was in love with, the famous actor Edna had far too much common-sense not to realise that would never be. It was very odd. She didn’t even want it to be. Her love was too intense for that. It had to be endured, silently; it had to torment her. It was, she supposed, simply that kind of love. (”Taking the Veil”, 285; italics original, emphasis added)

The extract above shows how Edna debates her love for Jimmy, her fiancé, and for the actor she has fallen in love with. The words in bold include an attitude stance adverb of course, a comment on a possible marriage with the famous actor, and a distal pronoun that. All these elements imply a reference to Edna’s perspective which, however, intermingles with that of the narrator after the dash on the second line. Edna’s emotional perspective, the vacillating feelings she suddenly faces in the story, re-occurs with the comment on the nature of her love (”It was very odd”) and remains unchanged till the end of the extract, with another comment at the end of the paragraph introduced by the style stance adverb simply. The extract above shows the subtlety of the change from one perspective to another: at the beginning we only have a personal pronoun reference to the speaker, but later the protagonist’s proper name is used to help the reader realise the change, to introduce the perspective of the narrator penetrating that of Edna. The effect is that of immediate access to the character’s thoughts and feelings. In the paragraph preceding example (6) the closest proper noun is ”Sister Agnes”. However, the reader does not connect the personal pronoun she in example (6) with Sister Agnes but with Edna, who is mentioned earlier in the text, because semantic connectors such as marriage and ”Jimmy” imply her. The narrator’s statement-like comment after the dash supports this interpretation. However, this sentence is affected by Edna’s idiom, the use of that (in italics) emphasising the impossibility of the suggestion of love for an actress. Edna’s eighteen-year-old girl’s voice is also heard at the end of the paragraph with the simply that kind of love quotation of Edna’s thoughts. As example (6) suggests, psycho-narration at the beginning of the paragraph depicts Edna’s feelings from her perspective, but later the narrator’s perspective becomes predominant in the example, providing the reader with an external perspective to Edna’s love life.

A drastic change in psycho-narration happens when the tenses change from the past to the present. This change implies a shift from the past or present events to the future.

(7) She takes the name of Sister Angela. Snip, snip! All her lovely hair is cut off…And in a blue gown with a white head-band Sister Angela goes from the convent to the chapel, from the chapel to the convent …she greets the little children who run to her. A saint! She hears it whispered as she paces the chill, wax-smelling corridors. A saint! (”Taking the Veil”, 286; emphasis added)

The extract above shows how Edna dreams about the life of a nun and imagines her future as Sister Angela. The short onomatopoeic snip and the repetition of a saint, both ending with an exclamation mark, refer to Edna’s imagination. Her emotional involvement shows in the sacrifices she makes (”All her lovely hair is cut off”) and in the description of the new environment she enters (”chill, wax-smelling corridors”). The present tense adds to the effect. It is used throughout the passage to relate Edna’s convent dreams, as another quotation below shows:

(8) Now it is evening. Two old people leaning on each other come slowly to the grave…Now there comes another. He is all in black; he comes slowly. But when he is there and lifts his black hat, Edna sees to her horror his hair is snow-white. Jimmy! Too late, too late! The tears are running down his face; he is crying now. Too late, too late! (ibid.: 287; italics original, emphasis added)

In example (8), the same elements of exclamatory repetition too late! and the present tense are used to depict Edna’s reveries about the future. Additionally, immediacy is emphasised with the temporal proximal deictic now, a favourite of Mansfield’s in this story, and the present continuous are running and is crying. The use of present continuous verb forms and the proximal deictic now mark Edna’s mental crisis, which culminates at the end of example (8) and ends the sections in the present tense. The non-use of the ”was-now” pattern reflects a  change in perspective from the narrator to Edna in example (8), as the sections that do not imply Edna’s consciousness in ”Taking the Veil” are written in the past tense (see example (5)). When the paragraph after example (8) begins, Edna has changed her mind about becoming a nun and realised she actually loves Jimmy.

4. Discussion

”Bliss” and  ”Taking the Veil” consist of a mixture of speech and thought report.  It is noticeable in these works that, as a narrative technique, free indirect discourse is clearly separated from psycho-narration. The shift from psycho-narration into free indirect discourse and then back to psycho-narration can be found in ”Bliss” and ”Taking the Veil”, as the linguistic analysis of characters’ emotions showed in section three. The reverie-like atmosphere of ”Taking the Veil” is strikingly different from the passionate, hectic mood in ”Bliss”, where the narrator first describes the setting for the psychological phenomena, Bertha’s mixed feelings about her marriage, and then resorts to consciousness presentation.

In ”Taking the Veil” the narrator’s function is to offer the reader an insight into Edna’s mind mostly through psycho-narration, thus, psycho-narrative passages begin with narratorial description which introduces Edna’s mental world to the reader. Psycho-narration serves to depict the protagonist’s internal debate: example (5) depicts the crucial moment of the past in the past tense and example (7) future dreams in the present tense. On the other hand, free indirect discourse in example (5) helps in creating sensual perceptions that present a contrast to Edna’s inner thoughts. Passages in free indirect discourse often start with a clause-initial coordinator (and), interjection (oh) or a wh-element (how) and can be spotted from the rest of the narration through orthography, like dashes surrounding the free indirect discourse passage, exclamation or question marks. Mansfield frequently uses italics and ellipses in reporting characters’ consciousness and feelings, which gives the impression of free indirect discourse.

Extensive use of stance adverbs is striking in the two stories. A common feature in Mansfield’s psycho-narration is the adoption of epistemic stance adverbs such as really in example (3).6 In ”Bliss” and ”Taking the Veil”, the interplay between the two dominant voices, that of the narrator and the protagonist, becomes evident through the rich use of stance adverbs. The narrator’s perspective is mostly introduced through epistemic adverbs indicating certainty or doubt (e.g. perhaps), whereas the protagonist’s perspective mostly consists of those of actuality and reality (e.g. in fact, really). The effect is a narrator with no intention to intrude upon the story events, and a protagonist with a distinctly marked emotional world including feelings of bliss, future dreams, and moments of despair and love. Mansfield’s narrator steers the reader towards the protagonist’s climax with subtle remarks and hardly visible hints.

Psycho-narration demonstrates different functions in the texts of this study. Mansfield uses evaluative and emotive descriptors in psycho-narrative sections; she borrows characters’ idiomatic expressions and marks internal discourse with orthography (dashes, exclamation marks), intensifiers and repetition to imply a shift from one perspective or feeling experience to another, for example, from the narrator to the protagonist. Mansfield describes the inner conflict or the dream world of the characters through psycho-narration, which is usually triggered by an emotional climax, in Bertha’s case the revelation of her husband’s adultery and in Edna’s case understanding who she really loves. In Mansfield’s fiction, the climax almost has a hallucinatory effect, as Edna’s convent dreams and the graveyard scene in example (8) show.

The use of the present tense seems to have a role in Mansfield’s text. Mansfield uses it mostly in psycho-narrative sections. All in all, there are certain features that are used frequently in Mansfield’s stories, such as dashes, repetition of adverbs or other clausal elements like intensifiers, interjections or co-ordinators. Temporal and spatial deictics have a significant role in the two stories, as the reader has very few other means to orient him- or herself while reading a literary text. Deictics help the reader to pinpoint the perspective in the passage and understand whose experiences are depicted in the story.

The study of the deictic features in Mansfield’s fictional prose shows that the author uses various markers to create a deictic centre. These markers create a picture of characters’ emotional world. Free indirect discourse and psycho-narration are motivated, for example, by an internal debate or a crisis, as Edna’s ponderings showed in example (8). As was suggested in the analysis, linguistic features such as reporting devices and deictic features can be used to pinpoint the source of emotions in a literary text. Verbs, adjectives, adverbs and other consciousness markers work for the same effect, to describe the emotional world of characters. Psycho-narration and free indirect discourse provide Mansfield with a tool to point out the significant moments in the protagonists’ lives and separate them from the rest of the narration. Mansfield is the master of her characters and their emotions, making them breathe and feel as if they really existed.



1 In the analysis, I have used the Chadwyck-Healey Literature Online database. Most of the material used in this study can be found in electronic text banks.

2 Free indirect discourse is a less intimate rendering of characters’ speech or thoughts than stream of consciousness and interior monologue, which are by nature direct and do not need a third person narrator as an introductory element to consciousness presentation.The difference between stream of consciousness and other types of speech and thought report is in the narrator’s filtering of characters’ consciousness. For example, free indirect discourse, psycho-narration and narrated perception (a character’s visual, aural, gustatory or tactile perception as far as it may be put into words) (Fludernik 1993: 308) include only fragments of character speech or thought within narratorial description, whereas stream of consciousness attempts to ”convey all the contents of a character’s mind – memory, sense perceptions, feelings, intuitions, thoughts – in relation to the stream of experience as it passes by, often at random” (Gray 1992: 274).

3 The narrator’s description of a character’s psyche has been given many names. Cohn (1978) uses the term psycho-narration, and Leech and Short (1981) call it narrative report of thought acts (NRTA). In Banfield (1981: 64), psycho-narration is included in represented speech and thought (RST) but redefined as ”nonreflective”. Another definition for Banfield’s nonreflective RST is provided by McHale (1983: 20):”what the character perceives or apprehends without being aware that he is perceiving and apprehending it”.

4 The common linguistic features that occur both in indirect discourse and free indirect discourse are backshifting of tenses and personal pronouns. Free indirect discourse and indirect discourse usually occur in the past, past perfect or future past (”What a lovely day it was!”), whereas direct discourse adopts the present, past, present perfect and future.

5 See Taavitsainen’s (1997: 193) discussion on personal affect, which means the expression of  subjective emotions, feelings, moods and attitudes.

6 See Kuivalainen (2005) for more information on stance adverbs in Katherine Mansfield’s stories.


Primary Sources

Mansfield, Katherine. ”Bliss” [1918]. Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield. London: Constable. 1962. 91-105.

_____. ”Taking the Veil” [1922]. New Zealand Stories. Ed. Vincent O’Sullivan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2001. 283-88.

_____. ”The Doll’s House” [1921]. New Zealand Stories. Ed. Vincent O’Sullivan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2001. 258-66.

Secondary Sources

Adamson, Sylvia. “Subjectivity in narration: empathy and echo.” In Yaguello, Marina (ed.)1994. Subjecthood and Subjectivity. The Status of the

Subject in Linguistic Theory. GAP Cedex: Orphys,193-208.

Banfield, Ann (1981)”Reflective and Non-reflective Consciousness in the Language of Fiction.” Poetics Today 2 (2), 61-76.

_____. (1982) Unspeakable Sentences: Narration and Representation in the Language of Fiction. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Biber, Douglas; Susan Conrad and Geoffrey Leech (2002) Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Cohn, Dorrit (1978) Transparent Minds. Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Ehrlich, Susan (1990) Point of View. A Linguistic Analysis of Literary Style. London: Routledge.

Fludernik, Monika (1993)  The Fictions of Language and the Languages of Fiction. London: Routledge.

Gray, Martin (1992) A Dictionary of Literary Terms. Singapore: Longman York Press.

Hawthorn, Jeremy (1994)  A Concise Glossary of Contemporary Literary Terms. London: Edward Arnold.

Kuivalainen, Päivi (2005) Consciousness in Narrative. A Case Study of Women’s Fiction 1688-1922. Unpublished Licentiate Thesis. Department of English, University of Helsinki.

Leech, Geoffrey N. and Michael H. Short (1981) Style in Fiction.  A Linguistic Introduction to English Fictional Prose. New York: Longman.

Levinson, Stephen C. (1983)  Pragmatics. London: Cambridge University Press.

Lyons, John (1981)  Language, Meaning and Context. Bungay/Suffolk: Fontana Paperbacks.

McHale, Brian (1978) ”Free Indirect Discourse: a Survey of Recent Accounts.” PTL 3, 249-287.

_____. (1983) “Unspeakable sentences, unnatural acts: Linguistics and poetics revisited.” Poetics Today 4 (1), 17-45.

Miall, David S. and Don Kuiken (2001) ”Shifting Perspectives: Readers’ Feelings and Literary Response.”  In Willie Van Peer and Seymour Chatman,

eds. (2001)  New Perspectives on Narrative Perspective.  Albany, NY: State University of New York, 289-301.

Taavitsainen, Irma (1997) “Genre Conventions: Personal Affect in Fiction and Non- fiction in Early Modern English”.  In Matti Rissanen; Merja Kytö and Kirsi Heikkonen, eds. (1997) English in Transition: Corpus-based Studies in Linguistics. Variation and Genre Styles.  Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 185-266.

Yule, George (1996) Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Zubin, David A. and Lynne E. Hewitt (1995) ”The Deictic Center: A Theory of Deixis in Narrative.” In Judith F. Duchan; Gail A. Bruder and Lynne E. Hewitt, eds. (1995) Deixis in Narrative. A Cognitive Science Perspective. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 129-155.