The Voyage, by Katherine Mansfield is a short story set in the early 1900s, about a young girl called Fenella who is being taken from her home in Wellington to live with her Grandparents in Picton, after the death of her mother. She along with her grandmother travels across the Cook Strait on the Picton Boat to her new home. Mansfield uses the literary techniques of symbolism, setting and dialogue to convey the idea of the transition from childhood into adulthood. Mansfield uses the symbolism of the umbrella to show that growth within Fenella has occurred.
Fenella’s grandma allows Fenella to take care of her “swan-necked umbrella” which is very precious to her. At the beginning of the story Fenella finds the umbrella large and awkward, “giving her shoulder a sharp little peck. ” Her Grandma has to remind her to be mindful of the umbrella, “be careful the umbrellas aren’t caught in the stair rail. ” This shows us that Fenella is still a child, young and irresponsible. During the middle of the story Fenella begins to be aware of the umbrella.
On the boat Fenella thinks about the umbrella, worrying about its safety at the same time as her grandmother. “Fenella remembered she had left the swan-necked umbrella…. if it fell over, would it break? ” This implies that Fenella is being more conscience of the world, which shows the beginning of her change as she matures. At the end of the story when they are about to leave the ship Grandma begins to remind Fenella of the umbrella, but she does not need to, as Fenella has already done her job. “’You’ve got my—‘Yes, Grandma. Fenella showed it to her. ”
This symbolism shows us the Fenella’s sense of responsibility has grown and she is now old enough to take care of something on her own, which shows us the quick change from a child to a grown-up after the death of her mother. The contrast of the setting also helps us understand the idea of the transition from childhood into adulthood. At the beginning Mansfield uses repetition of the word “dark” and “huge” to describe the setting to convey the world through Fenella’s eyes. “It was dark…very dark…. , “all seemed carved out of solid darkness”, “huge black mushroom. ”
These words give us negative connotations which help us see that Fenella finds the world imposing, frightening, unwelcoming and full of the unknown. However, by the end Mansfield describes the setting using words such as “little” and “white” to show the change in Fenella’s view of the world. “little horse…little path….. little house,” and “white picottes…white cat…white, warm fur. ” This helps us understand that Fenella’s situation from the beginning is different.
She is seeing the world in a different way. She has changed from the girl in the beginning who saw everything as “huge” and “black”. Instead the world is now full of light and hope for her future, her mourning for her mother is slowly becoming easier and eventually everything is going to be alright. This change in views shows us a growth in perception, thinking and understanding, which has been speed up because of the death of her mother. This shows the change from an innocent child into adult who understands the hardships in life.
The use of dialogue is also used to convey the idea of a child transitioning into adult hood. In the middle of the story, Fenella and her grandma are sitting in their small cabin. Fenella sees her grandma undress for the first time, which is a strange sight for her. “Then she undid her bodice, and something under that, and something else underneath that. ” This shows us Fenella’s youth as she is unable to identify what the items of clothing are. After Grandma is finished undressing, Fenella puts on her flannel dressing gown and asks her grandma if she should take off her boots.
The grandma takes a moment to considerate and she replies “You’d feel a great deal more comfortable if you did, child. ” Grandma gives Fenella advice but ultimately leaves the decision up to her. This shows us that Fenella is gradually entering into adulthood where she is now believed to be mature enough to make decisions on her own, as her mother is no longer there to make them for her. In The Voyage we can clearly see the idea of the transition from childhood into adulthood. Mansfield has successfully used different literary techniques to convey this idea.
The symbolism of the umbrella, the contrast in the setting and the dialogue between Fenella and her grandmother, all show us the journey of growth that Fenella has taken after the death of her beloved mother. From The Voyage we can learn that even after a tragic event has occurred and the world may seem dark there is always light and hope to be found. Life is too short and time is too precious to waste a single moment of it, so we must not live in the past, but start enjoying every moment that we have now.