At the Bay

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At The Bay is a 1922 short story by Katherine Mansfield. It was first published the London Mercury in January 1922, and later reprinted in The Garden Party and Other Stories.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

I

The shepherd is with his dog on Crescent Bay.

II

Stanley Burnell goes for a swim early morning, and Jonathan Trout is there; the two men wanted to be the first in the water, and Jonathan expresses sympathy for Stanley.

III

Aunt Beryl tells Kezia not to play with her food. Stanley leaves for work, to the women's relief.

IV

Out in the countryside, Kezia helps Lottie with the stile to Isabel's disapproval. The Samuel Josephs children are said to be rowdy and they don't play with them any more. Then they come upon Rags and Pip, and the latter shows them a 'nemeral' he has found in the sand.

V

At the beach, Aunt Beryl joins Mrs Kember, of whom Mrs Fairfield disapproves. Beryl gets changed in front of her friend.

VI

Linda is alone in the bungalow. She thinks back of when she was living in Tasmania with her parents, of how her father said they would go down a river in China, of how her father agreed on her marrying Stanley whom she loves for being soft underneath the veneer. Her baby boy comes along and she says she feels no motherly love for him; he keeps on smiling, then plays with his toes.

VII

After a description of the seashore, Mrs Fairfield and Kezia are taking an afternoon nap in the bungalow. The grandmother is thinking of Uncle William, one of her sons who died of sunstroke while working as a miner; Kezia asks her if she is sad, then attempts to make the grandmother promise never to die.

VIII

Alice visits Mrs Stubbs in town; the latter shows her photographs, then talks about how her husband died of dropsy, and adds that 'freedom is best'.

IX

Kezia, Lottie and Isabel are playing a card game similar to 'snap' with Pips and Rag in the washhouse. Uncle Jonathan turns up to take the boys home.

X

Before picking up the boys, Uncle Jonathan meets Linda in the garden. She is charmed by him. He confesses to loathing his job but believes he lacks the willpower to change his life.

XI

Stanley comes back and apologises profusely for not saying goodbye to Linda in the morning. He has bought gloves for himself.

XII

Aunt Beryl is worried about being single and growing old alone; Harry Kember turns up and asks her for a walk; at first she goes along with him, but repudiates his advances when his intentions become clear.

XIII

A brief description of the bay.

Characters[edit]

  • The Shepherd
  • Stanley Burnell
  • Linda Burnell
  • (Uncle) Jonathan Trout, likes music and books; he is the leader of the church choir.
  • Aunt Beryl
  • Mrs Fairfield
  • Kezia
  • Isabel
  • Lottie
  • The Samuel Josephs children
  • Pip, a cousin of the Burnells
  • Rags, a cousin of the Burnells
  • Mrs Harry Kember; an eccentric who smokes heavily and likes to play bridge
  • Gladys, Mrs Kember's servant, whom she calls Glad-eyes
  • Mrs Stubbs, who runs a shop near the beach; a friend of Alice.
  • Mr Harry Kember

Major themes[edit]

  • Death
  • Feminism
  • Marxism
  • Childhood

Literary significance[edit]

The text is written in the modernist mode, without a set structure, and with many shifts in the narrative.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Katherine Mansfield, Selected Stories, Oxford World's Classics, explanatory notes

External links[edit]