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A Dill Pickle by Katherine Mansfield

            In her short story "A Dill Pickle," Katherine Mansfield uses character construction to represent power imbalance between the sexes in a context of changing social norms. "A Dill Pickle" was written in England in 1920, during a period of significant European social and economic revolution. Labour movements and the steady recognition of women's legal rights were challenging traditional class and gender structures. Nonetheless, women remained disempowered in society. By juxtaposing the two psychologised characters, Mansfield contrasts Vera's feminine insecurity with the man's self-assuredness, demonstrating the power difference between men and women.
             Mansfield develops the character of Vera both to present her particular individuality and also to represent female alienation and disempowerment. Through the use of free indirect speech, the semi-omniscient narrator allows the reader to know Vera's thoughts and follow her stream of consciousness. Vera is quiet, self-depreciating and anxious. The frequent use of short sentences and exclamation marks ("[i]ncredible! He didn't know her!. She hesitated, but of course she meant to") gives her inner dialogue a nervous tone. Vera's thoughts wander as the Man speaks with her, and she is rarely fully present. As they speak, her thoughts drift whimsically to the "sniggering tea drinkers" of the pagoda, or to the "mysteriously Black Sea". As she reflects on the Man's compliments, "was there a hint of mockery in his voice? She could not be sure" she seems hesitant and irresolute. .
             Mansfield also uses techniques of description, conversation, and symbolism (Hawthorn 50-52) to construct Vera's character. Ironically, thought the name "Vera" can be likened to "verity" or "truth", she is a hesitant, pretentious and frustrating character. Vera is well spoken, finely dressed and appears to belong to an aristocratic class.

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