The Persephone Book of Short Stories: The Black Cap by Katherine Mansfield

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Even though this was my first time reading a story by Katherine Mansfield, I have come across a lot of blog reviews on her work, which I believe speak for her fame. According to the author biographies at the back of The Persephone Book of Short Stories, Katherine Mansfield lived a very short life (1888-1923), so one can only imagine what she might have accomplished, had she lived longer. The Black Cap is one of her early works published in 1917.

In The Black Cap, we have an unhappy wife seated at the breakfast table with her husband. She seems excited and dressed for traveling, but her husband has a hard time taking his eyes off the newspaper even when the time has come for her to leave to the train station.

What you have been trying to do, ever since you married me is to make me submit, to turn me into your shadow, to rely on me so utterly that you’d only to glance up to find the right time printed on me somehow, as if I were a clock. You have never been curious about me; you never wanted to explore my soul. No; you wanted me to settle down to your peaceful existence.

She would think of many ways her husband failed her in the cab ride to the train station. But will the life that awaits her at her destination be any different?

Through this very brief short story (it is only nine pages!), Katherine Mansfield tells us how we might find ourselves in the same spot, again and again, but somehow might even come to appreciate what we already have. She puts it quite eloquently when the wife on her way to the train station looks out through the taxi window and thinks “How strong the hay smells. It’s going to be a hot day. I shall never see these fields again. Never! never!”, yet, imagines how “It will be wonderful driving up from the station: the fields will smell so delicious” on her way home the very same day. 🙂

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