Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day Fifty-Two: "The Luft Bad" by Katherine Mansfield


A woman goes to a public bath house and wonders why so many half naked people there carry umbrellas, shield themselves with them, hiding their bodies, their legs. We see her self-conscious and worrisome until she is inundated with others in the bath, nosy people, pushy people, people who simply won't stop gossiping. She soon realizes that the umbrellas can be useful. She can hide from everyone else that way. Is it modesty? Insecurity? Or is it a sign of the woman's understanding of the world around her?

It's as if she is determined to show that reader that being naked doe not necessarily equate to being exposed or vulnerable. The umbrella was a nice image to convey this point in what was a very interesting read given that it was written in 1911 by the 23 year old Mansfield. As part of her collection of short stories titled "In a German Pension," this piece can still stand alone on its own merits and leave me wondering myself whether the narrator got it right after all.

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