Historical Context

Katherine Mansfield wrote many stories in the period during the period between the two world wars. In many ways they reflect the context of their creation. The 1920s saw enormous political and social disturbance throughout Europe. In the new Soviet Union, for example, the Marxist revolution was nearing completion. The Soviet Union’s powerful leader, V. I. Lenin, had succeeded in wresting control from the Russian aristocracy and was establishing a system of agricultural collectivization in the rural parts of the Soviet Union. In parts of Europe, political groups were beginning to promote Fascism—a philosophy that supports a government of unlimited power, often ruled by a dictator. These changes alarmed many and prompted people every everywhere to discuss issues related to the class systems that existed during the period.


Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp Murry (14 October 1888 – 9 January 1923) was a prominent modernist writer of short fiction who was born and brought up in colonial New Zealand and wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield. Mansfield left for Great Britain in 1908 where she encountered Modernist writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf with whom she became close friends. Her stories often focus on moments of disruption and frequently open rather abruptly. Among her most well known stories are “The Garden Party,” “The Daughters of the Late Colonel,” and “The Fly.” During the First World War Mansfield contracted tuberculosis which rendered any return or visit to New Zealand impossible and led to her death at the age of 34.

Katherine Mansfield is widely considered one of the best short story writers of her period. A number of her works, including “Miss Brill”, “Prelude”, “The Garden Party”, “The Doll’s House”, and later works such as “The Fly”, are frequently collected in short story anthologies. Mansfield also proved ahead of her time in her adoration of Russian playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov, and incorporated some of his themes and techniques into her writing.

Mansfield was greatly influenced by Anton Chekhov, sharing his warm humanity and attention to small details of human behavior. Her influence on the development of the modern short story was also notable. Among her literary friends were Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, who considered her overpraised, and D.H. Lawrence, who later turned against Murray and her. Mansfield’s journal, letters, and scrapbook were edited by her husband.

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