A Cup of Tea

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"A Cup of Tea"
Author Katherine Mansfield
Published in Story-Teller
Publication date May 1922

"A Cup of Tea" is a 1922 short story by Katherine Mansfield. It was first published in the Story-Teller in May 1922. It later appeared in The Dove's Nest and Other Stories.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Rosemary Fell, a wealthy young married woman, goes to Curzon Street to shop at a florist's and in an antique shop (in which she admires, but does not buy, a beautifully painted small ceramic box). Before going to the car, Rosemary is approached by Miss Smith, a poor girl who asks for enough money to buy tea. Instead, Rosemary drives the girl to her plush house, determined to show her "that dreams do come true" and "that rich people did have hearts." At the Fells' home, Miss Smith eats her fill of food and tea. She then begins to tell Rosemary of her life until Rosemary's husband, Philip, comes in. Although initially surprised, Philip recovers and asks to speak to Rosemary alone. In the library, Philip conveys his disapproval. When Rosemary resists dismissing Miss Smith, Philip tries another, more successful, tactic: He plays to Rosemary's jealousy and insecurity by telling her how pretty he thinks Miss Smith is. Rosemary retrieves three five-pound notes and, presumably, sends the girl away (a far cry from Rosemary's first vow to "look after" and "be frightfully nice to" Miss Smith). Later, Rosemary goes to her husband and informs him that "Miss Smith won't dine with us tonight." She first asks about the antique box from the morning, but then arrives at her true concern, quietly asking Philip, "Am I pretty?" The story ends with this question.

Major themes[edit]

References to other works[edit]

  • Rosemary decides to help the poor girl as she feels inspired by stories by Dostoevsky that she has been reading.

Literary significance[edit]

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


It was adapted into the television series Katha Sagar (1986), directed by Shyam Benegal.


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

External links[edit]