Marriage à la Mode (short story)

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Marriage à la Mode is a 1921 short story by Katherine Mansfield. It was first published The Sphere on 31 December 1921, and later reprinted in The Garden Party and Other Stories.[1]


The title is a play on the phrase mariage à la mode in French, which means 'fashionable marriage'.

Plot summary[edit]

William would usually buy his children sweets because he knows his wife won't let him buy them 'big donkeys and engines', as that would be unseemly. This time he buys fruit instead.

As it is, they have moved from a small house in London to a bigger one in the countryside. It appears Isabel has changed, thanks to the influence of an older, richer friend, and she now considers William dull and bourgeois. They have a spat about it one evening.

Isabel then picks up William at the train station, and her affected, Bohemian friends are there. Bobby Kane joins them on the way, and Isabel pays for the sweets he bought. They all go bathing except for William and they come back late, loud, and saying bad things about William. Then at dinner they overeat, and tuck in. The next day, William returns to London for work. On the train, he writes a letter to his wife.

While they are out in the garden, Isabel receives the letter and reads it out loud to her friends, who find it hilarious. She then runs to her bedroom and feels ashamed of having read it to them. She comes to the conclusion that she will write to her husband later but for the time being she will go back to her friends.


  • William, the husband.
  • Isabel, the wife.
  • Paddy, one of their children.
  • Johnny, one of their children.
  • Bill Hunt, a new friend of Isabel's.
  • Dennis Green, a new friend of Isabel's.
  • Moira Morrison, a new friend of Isabel's.
  • Bobby Kane, a new friend of Isabel's.

Major themes[edit]

  • Marriage
  • Bourgeois

References to other works[edit]

References to actual history[edit]

Literary significance[edit]

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


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

External links[edit]