Sie sind auf Seite 1von 2

A Cup of Tea Katherine Mansfield 15th of March Written Text (Short Story) A Cup of Tea, written by Katherine Mansfield,

tells the story of Rosemary Fell- an young upper class woman in the 1920s. After shopping at an antique store she is met by a young poor girl named Miss Smith who begs her for money for a cup of tea. Instead, Rosemary brings her back to her own home and treats Miss Smith to a taste of her luxurious lifestyle. Rosemarys husband Philip initially disapproves and tells her so himself. When she refuses to dismiss Miss Smith, he tries the more successful tactic of playing on Rosemarys jealousy. After retrieving some money, Rosemary sends Miss Smith away, a great contrast to the beginning of the text. She soon informs her husband. Rosemary then asks about an item she wanted to buy at an antique store, then at her true concern- am I pretty? Throughout this short story we can see particularly the theme of class consciousness. Class consciousness is about what beliefs an individual has about their rank in society and what their class in particular consists of. Rosemary in the first paragraph is described as, though plain in looks, the ideal in regards of materialistic needs- Rosemary Fell was not exactly beautiful (But) she was young, brilliant, extremely modern, amazingly well read in the newest of new books, and her parties were the most delicious mixture of the really important people. The reader is given the idea that she is rather insecure about herself and that she has had to make up for her personality and character due to her lack of beauty. This tells us that Rosemary is a rather shallow person, views her status as an upper class woman quite highly, and very content being shallow and living a life of materialism. The next paragraph leads onto the state of her wealth-which we can safely assume from the first paragraph that she was truly rolling in the money for someone in the 1920s. She can afford to get exactly what she wants and as a result of her wealth, she justifies her actions of being very demanding of people below her status, and in turn others of a lower class were willing to please her because of her wealth- I want those and those and those No, no lilac. I hate lilac. Its got no shape. The attendant bowed and put the lilac out of sight, as though this was only too true; lilac was dreadfully shapeless. Notably, there is no praise or admiration from the author here towards Rosemary. In this way though it makes Rosemary all too vulnerable to others who know her weakness- in example, the shopkeeper of the antique store. It was a shop she likedHe beamed whenever she came in. He clasped his hands; he was so gratified he could scarcely speak. Flattery, of course. All the same, there was something We can see from here that Rosemary mainly likes this store for the fact that the shopkeeper grants her his undivided attention. The shopkeeper is probably used to dealing with people like Rosemary and knows exactly what to tell them to make them feel special-he would explain in low, respectful tones, I love my things. I would rather not part with them than sell them to someone who does not appreciate them She knows that all he truly respects her for is her wealth but she lets herself be sucked into that because of the flattery and compliments that she receives openly because of her insecurity over her beauty. Her wealth is clearly her makeup and without it she would not have the sense of higher authority she has over others as well as the adoration she wants from people of a lower class. One of the more powerful examples of class consciousness can be seen in the event where Miss Smith- who is no older than Rosemary herself approaches Rosemary for the price of a cup of tea. We see again that Rosemary has a general disregard for others in the lower classes to the point that she doesnt even see them until spoken to - a young girl, thin, dark, shadowy- where had she come from?-was standing at Rosemarys elbow...Madam, may I speak to you a moment? Speak to me? Rosemary is surprised that she is even being addressed by her. This gives us evidence yet again that she sets herself clear social boundaries by class and if they are not on her level they are not worth even noticing. Mansfield now provides some sympathy for a character with the description of the young girl that approached Rosemary a little battered creature with enormous eyeswho clutched at her coat-collar with reddened hands, and shivered- and we get an idea of just how much lower in class she is compared to Rosemary. In asking for the money Mansfield again shows us her favour of this new character in the quote There was something simple, sincere in that voice; it wasnt in the least the voice of a beggar. Rosemary in the next couple of lines, by not only offering her a cup of tea but to bring her back to her home, shows us how truly shallow and self-serving she can get. She proceeds to romanticize the act of helping this girl out- as she had read in a book or seen on stage- and she views it as an adventure where at the end of it she could tell all her

friends of her great good deed. This is a great example of how people in the upper class show generosity towards others they consider to be their inferior to prove their superiority. It is clear that Rosemary only wants to do it so that she betters her image in front of her peers and because she loves the idea of doing something shed only truly read about or seen- not because she actually wants to help her out. This can be especially seen in the quote But I do, cried Rosemary. I want you to. To please me. There are no thoughts from Rosemary about how much it would benefit the young girl or feelings of pity in particular-in fact she is rather surprised in the first place that some dont have money to buy even a cup of tea! This shows how rarely she interacts with people of a lower class and her ignorance towards them. On the other hand, the character of Miss Smith is exactly what anyone of her class and situation would be acting like. Driven to beg for money to buy food, she is generally surprised at the generosity that Rosemary is exhibiting. It is clear she would rather not go with Rosemary back to her home but in her state of hunger she really doesnt have much choice to refuse and just ask for money. This can be seen in the quote Hungry people are easily led. It is a direct contrast to Rosemarys demands and her ability to get what she wants because of the wealth that she has at the beginning of the text. Upon entering Rosemarys home, Miss Smith is clearly overwhelmed by the grandeur as well as the strangeness of it all. The girl stood just inside the door; she seemed dazedI darent, madam, said the girl, and she edged backwards. It becomes clear to the reader that she is not used to this and it says to the reader as well about society in the 20th century that this was not a common thing for lower class people to go through despite the romanticizing of similar events in popular novels and plays at the time. Just being in Rosemarys home would make it all the more obvious to Miss Smith of her place. Mansfield, in this text, paints very clearly the massive gap in the two classes and exactly how underprivileged others are positioned to be due to the ignorance of others. That being said, this text truly relates to society today, despite the fact that it was written almost one hundred years ago, because the same sort of events are still happening. People in higher, upper class positions still continue to exercise power over those in the lower class positions due to wealth and this can be especially seen in major businesses and companies around the world, an example of many being slavery/unfair pay for the production of major clothing and footwear brands like Nike. It transcends into things as simple as non-conformity - and as popular as that is, the ones who dont conform to non-conformity get the worst treatment- and those who do conform to it get a sense of superiority over those who dont. As a student it might be about who has a leadership position or whos more popular but it all comes down to that false sense of superiority over having something that others may not necessarily have. I personally wholly agree with Mansfields presentation of the two classes and it is truly a shame that it still occurs today. There are people who are truly altruistic out there and it doesnt seem like they get much credit but I feel that Mansfield also wanted to show that others, no matter how shallow and materialistic, can change. Even at one point Rosemary herself feels true pity and the slightest goodwill towards Miss Smith- she burst into tears. It was a terrible and fascinating momentShe really was touched beyond words