Deuil pathologique et destins de la féminité : le non-dit dans la nouvelle Les Filles de feu le colonel de Katherine Mansfield

Ana Irimescu Morariu

The short story The Daughters of the Late Colonel is at the same time very succinct and extremely rich in terms of the psychological analysis of its characters provided by Katherine Mansfield. In my paper, I would like to tackle the problem of the effects of the unspoken on the psychological process of subjectivation of two young girls in relation to a situation of pathological grieving. After their father’s death, the two sisters of this short story, Joséphine and Constance, found themselves all alone in a house which contains the traces of the colonel’s oppressive presence even after his demise. While they sometimes go as far as to doubt their father’s death because of their difficulty to come to terms with his disappearance, the two daughters mostly try to find a way to continue their lives. In order to do so, they finally dare to question some of the past events which highly influenced their family life but were never really discussed between its members because of their father’s formal interdiction. Such is especially the case with the colonel’s wife untimely death many years before which was most probably traumatic for the entire family to the point where it was impossible to put into words the experience of loss and pain that they must have felt. The hypothesis on which my paper is based consists in the idea that the pathological grieving of his wife by the colonel made it impossible to him to help his daughters develop their femininity. On the contrary, by his decisions to keep them close to him until his death, he indirectly forbade them to fulfill their destinies as well adjusted women. In this short story, Katherine Mansfield’s genius consists in her capacity to show how deep is the wound of having lost their mother for the two sisters, a wound that could never heal and which was reopened by the death of their father. This recent loss signifies for the two sisters that the secret of femininity which was not revealed to them by their mother because of her death was occulted by their father because of his inability to communicate with them and thus remained forever inaccessible to them.