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The Daughters of the Late Colonel. By Katherine Mansfield. Background. Katherine Mansfield

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The Daughters of the Late Colonel

By Katherine Mansfield


Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield was closely associated with D.H. Lawrence and something of a rival of Virginia Woolf. Her creative years were burdened with loneliness, illness, jealousy, and alienation - all these reflected from her work in the bitter description of marital and family relationships of her middle-class characters.


About Her Life

Katherine Mansfield was born in Wellington, New Zealand, into a middle-class colonial family. Her father was a banker and mother was a genteel. At the age of nine she had her first text published. She withdrew to London in 1903 and studied at the Queen's College, where she joined the staff of the College Magazine. Then she moved back in New Zealand in 1906,and failed to become a professional cello player. In 1908, her lifelong friend Baker persuaded Mansfield's father to allow Katherine to move back to England, with an allowance of £100 a year. There she devoted herself to writing, and never visited New Zealand again.


After an unhappy marriage in 1909 with George Brown, she toured for a while. During her stay in Germany she wrote satirical sketches of German characters, In a German Pension, which were published in 1911. On her return to London in 1910, she became ill with an untreated sexually transmitted disease. She attended literary parties without much enthusiasm: "Pretty rooms and pretty people, pretty coffee, and cigarettes out of a silver tankard... I was wretched."

Until 1914 she published stories inRhythmandThe Blue Review. During the war she traveled restlessly between England and France, and in 1915 she met her brother. When he died in World War I, Mansfield focused her writing on New Zealand and her family.'Prelude' (1916), one of her most famous stories, was written during this period. In 1918 Mansfield divorced from her first husband and married John Murry. In the same year she was found to have tuberculosis.


Mansfield and Murry became closely associated with D.H. Lawrence and his wife. When Murry had an affair with the Princess, Mansfield did not object to the affair but her letters to Murry: "I am afraid you must stop writing these love letters to my husband while he and I live together. It is one of the things which is not done in our world."In her last years Mansfield lived much of her time in southern France and in Switzerland, seeking relief from tuberculosis. In 1922, she had to spend a few hours every day on some treatment but did no good. With no company of her literary friends, family, or her husband, she wrote much about her own roots and her childhood. Mansfield died of a pulmonary hemorrhage on January 9, 1923, in France. Her last words were:"I love the rain. I want the feeling of it on my face."


About Her Writing

Mansfield's family memoirs were collected inBliss (1920), which secured her reputation as a writer. In the next two years she did her best work, achieving the height in The Garden Party(1922), which she wrote during the final stages of her illness. Mansfield was greatly influenced by Anton Chekhov, sharing his warm humanity and attention to small details of human behavior. Her influence on the development of the short story as a form of literature was also notable.


The Daughters of the Late Colonel is a story of two daughters struggling to accept a new form of freedom after the death of their father. It describes one week in the life of the Colonel‘s daughters Constantia and Josephine. Their father has just died and now they live one of their busiest weeks of their life. There are so many things to do so that they hardly know where to start.


At the beginning of the story, there is the funeral to be organized and then there is a nurse Andrews who is not a very pleasant person. Unfortunately, Constantia and Josephine invited her to stay for one week. They have felt obliged to invite her because she had nursed their father night and day in the end and she was very kind to him. But she is an eccentric person.

An important thing to be done is to go through the Colonel’s room and to settle about his things. For Constantia and Josephine, it is a very unpleasant task because normally nobody had the right to enter his room when he was not in. The two are very scared and become victims of their own fantasies. They imagine that their father might be somewhere in the room. Constantia and Josephine get so terrified that they leave the room and put off the settling.


The other important thing to be decided is whether Constantia and Josephine should keep Kate as their servant or not. She is always unfriendly-slams the doors, slaps down the food and she does not even care if the sisters like her food or not.

Constantia and Josephine realize that they could easily dismiss Kate because there is not their father anymore to be cooked for.

But they don’t come to any conclusion every time. Because as they hearing a barrel-organ starts to play in the streets, sisters get excited. They have to stop the organ-grinder otherwise their father would get mad. Suddenly they realize that there is no reason to go down to the streets. It is the first time they really realize that their father has died.

Constantia Pinner

A middle-aged woman, who is the Colonel’s younger daughter. She is indecisive to make decision and usually speaks faintly as she expresses her opinion.

Josephine Pinner

Also in middle-aged. She is the elder sister of Constantia, who is interested in making decisions and guiding her less able sister to do so. Both of these two sisters never disobey their father’s discipline



The Pinners’ servant, who is proud and insolent. Constantia and Josephine plan to fire her.


Constantia and Josephine’s nephew. They decide to give him the Colonel’s watch.



The Pinner sisters’ dead father, who is severe, powerful, and a kind of tyrant. Everything has to be done exactly the way he wanted. Otherwise, he will get angry, so even he passes away, his two daughters still feel afraid of him.

Nurse Andrews

Colonel’s nurse, who simply loves butter. She takes advantage of Constantia and Josephine’s kindness when having dinner with them.

Katherine Mansfield’s "Daughters of the Late Colonel" is about how two sisters face their lives after the death of their father.

Before their father dies, these two adult sisters have lived in father’s rules. Their life with him has filled them with terror; they can’t even communicate with him.

After the funeral, their lives don’t go any further. They remain in bondage to the dead man, fearful of dislodging his image or receiving his posthumous disapproval.


By giving her nephew the watch and not stopping the organ-grinder, they seem to internally realize that they are free to do as they please. But this progression is only temporary, the sisters quickly stay quiet because of their initial fear of their father.

This story reflects the unfair treatment which male gives to female. The colonel is a symbol of patriarchy; women who live in this authority-dominated society are repressed in their own thought and can’t have their own ideas. Even the world changes, women can’t still get real freedom.

We can also apply this idea onto the relationship between authorities and human-beings in general. We tend to follow a series of rules without asking why. Do we dare to challenge the authority?