Honeymoon is a magnificently written short story by Katherine Mansfield that follows a day in the life of two main characters, George and Fanny who are on their honeymoon on the Mediterranean coast. The setting is not specified but seems to be south of France. The story mainly follows the perspective of Fanny and the reader gets to see her environment through her eyes. Though the readers do get to see some glimpses of George’s perspective, the major focus is on Katherine.
Honeymoon was published in the ‘Nation and Athenaeum’ on the 29th of April 1922. The story is taken from Mansfield’s “The Doves’ Nest and Other Stories” collection and it is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator.
Honeymoon | Summary
The story begins with the exit of the couple from a lace shop and George summoned a cab from under a tree nearby tree with a loud “Hi”. Fanny found the fact a happy surprise though she felt uncomfortable about the way her husband summoned cabs though the drivers didn’t agree with her. Helping Fanny in the cab, George inquired if she would like to go to the place where the lobsters grow. Fanny agreed and she thought the way George said things were so very nice. They passed under the tall trees and through the small streets, past the fountain square and round the corner past the cafe. Fanny gazed dreamily at George and marvelled at the fact that they were on their own at the place with no one to answer to.
George informed Fanny that he used to keep a white mouse in his pocket when he was younger before answering Fanny, without much conviction, that he fairly liked white mouse. At once, he saw someone bathing in the waters and was displeased about missing it. He vowed that he would be there the next morning. Fanny, after knowing the various dangers of the Mediterranean Sea, was reluctant but she did not stop George from going. They came across a high wall on the land side covered with flowering heliotrope and saw Topping villa which was visible through the palm trees. Fanny thought the villa was rather large but George was of the opinion that it was much needed. The driver told them that it belonged to a wealthy Spanish family.
They reach the restaurant which was a big, bone-white hotel restaurant. Outside, there was a built-up terrace, planted with umbrella palms, set out with tables where the couple decided to be seated. The manager took them to “a very nice little table.” The couple followed him and upon reaching the table, George didn’t sit and instead, asked Fanny if she wanted to sit somewhere else. Fanny wanted to just sit anywhere and said that the table was fine. They ordered tea and chocolate éclairs and the manager insisted on trying toast and upon being denied asked if they wanted to look at the lobsters whilst waiting. George made the manager leave and said that he didn’t like “these foreign fellows”, they bored him and one should simply shut them up.
George took Fanny’s hand and squeezed them before saying, “Fanny, darling Fanny!” Fanny said his name and she heard music but instead, she wanted to focus on her husband and remain at the little table with the perfect sea. But, instead, she seriously asked him to answer something fairly important. George promised. Fanny inquired if George felt like he really knew her. George claimed that he did, very well, in fact. Fanny said that people, when they love a person, often misunderstand them and she didn’t want to be like them. George laughed and denied it. The band started playing the flute, guitar and violin. They ate their éclair and drank tea. Fanny observed the band from her table.
Suddenly, the music stopped and Fanny saw a tall old man with white hair who was standing over glancing at the tables. The band began playing again and the man began to sing. People were astonished and everyone grew silent. Everyone was smiling by the end, except the couple. Fanny wondered if life was as suffering as the song said. She thought about the cruelty present in the world. George, on the other hand, thought that they were lucky to be separated from such a cruel world. He turned to Fanny and demanded that they go somewhere before the song starts again. And just like that, they left.
Honeymoon | Analysis
“Honeymoon” by Katherine Mansfield begins in media res where the characters are leaving a lace shop and follows them for a short time before ending in a rather abrupt manner. The story seems more like a long conversation between the couple, George and Fanny, than a narrative. It follows them on a random day of their honeymoon and is basically about happiness, love, doubt, selfishness, control and the different thoughts of two human beings regarding the same situation.
For almost the entire story the couple, George and Fanny, seem very much in love with each other which is to be expected because the couple is on their honeymoon. Throughout the story, they both are seen to be in close proximity to each other and don’t leave the other’s side for a single moment. The author, Katherine Mansfield, uses bright colours and beautiful and joyful imagery throughout the course of the story as symbolic of how happy, content and in love the couple is with each other. The imagery of bright colours can be seen when the couple is on their way from the shop to the restaurant. The trees are described as shaded green and gold plane, the streets have the exotic smell of lemon, they pass by a cafe which is decorated with beautiful and colourful umbrellas, they also pass a fountain which creates a picture of freshness. All the above is used as imagery to show their happiness and their pass from singlehood to a happy, vivid and successful married life. Almost immediately, after they reach the restaurant, the colours and the imager, flip and the reader sees dark colours in the form of the band. Mansfield uses this to show the reader just how fast things can change and happy and bright days can turn to dark and gloomy. This is the moment where the reader senses that Fanny is having second thoughts and is doubting her relationship.
The question “Do you really know me?” is a cry for help and Mansfield captures the war between Fanny’s emotions in a phenomenal manner. On one hand, she feels immense love for her partner whom she has taken marriage vows with but on the other hand, she is under the impression that this man, who she’s going to spend her whole life with, does not really know her. She starts doubting, not only George but also herself. It is possible that she is asking the same question herself about who she really is and what she wants from her life. Her whole life has changed after her marriage and she feels a sense of doubt that comes with the immense change. The reader also feels that Fanny is not particularly reassured by the answer George gives her and rightfully so. His reply seems like a brush off to Fanny’s rather serious and frantic question. He shakes off the deeper meaning of her question with a laugh and gives no more thought to it which is the case throughout the story and the reader feels sympathetic for this woman who just needs her husband to understand and love her.
George comes off as a rather controlling person which may be the point of the author. Mansfield, through George, paints a picture for the reader of the husband when it comes to their wife’s regards and concerns. Men in general are in control and in a position of power when it comes to marriage with a woman being in a subordinate position as the reader sees through Fanny. Fanny is not given much of a voice and dialogue in the story. Though she has a lot to say, the lot is expressed in just her thoughts and it never even occurs t her o voice out her concerns and stand up for herself which was the case for many housewives at that time. Mansfield demonstrates the inequality that was very prominent in that century and the reader is left feeling both sad and angry on the behalf of Fanny, who in turn represents many, if not all, housewives and women of the given time.
The end of the story is also an interesting part. Fanny, after hearing the songs, is seen to be very emphatic and sad about the people who are in a difficult situation and wonders if she and George really deserve the luxurious life that they are living. Though excited about her upcoming future, she is rather doubtful about the fact that so many people are left unhappy and underprivileged when people like her and George are able to live their life in a content manner. On the other hand, George is “feeling differently” in the sense that he has no sympathy for the people who don’t have enough in their life. He is happy that he is not in their place and is living a good life with Fanny. In the end, George is seen to be taking control again, of both his and Fanny’s actions and without even hearing her answer, takes her out of the restaurant. Throughout the story, he does not listen to his wife and seems to do what pleases him. Living his and Fanny’s life the way he sees fit.
Honeymoon | About the Author
Kathleen Mansfield Murry ( Beauchamp; 14 October 1888 – 9 January 1923) was a New Zealand writer, essayist and journalist, widely considered one of the most influential and important authors of the modernist movement. Her works are celebrated across the world and have been published in 25 languages. Mansfield wrote short stories and poetry under a variation of her own name, Katherine Mansfield, which explored anxiety, sexuality and existentialism alongside a developing New Zealand identity. When she was 19, she left New Zealand and settled in England, where she became a friend of D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Lady Ottoline Morrell and others in the orbit of the Bloomsbury Group. Mansfield was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis in 1917, and she died in France aged 34.