An Indiscreet Journey
is a 1920 short story by Katherine Mansfield
. It was first published in the Athenaeum
on 1 October 1920, and later reprinted in Bliss and Other Stories
An English Woman is traveling to the French front line during the First World War to see her French lover who is the 'Little Corporal'. Sh is masquerading as an English woman going to see her Uncle and Aunt (two paid actors). She encounters two old women on her train journeys, the first is kind, but the second (nicknamed seagull because of an incongruous fake seagull perched upon her hat) is cunning and perceptive, asking pointed questions, knowing her real purpose in France. The narrator and her lover spend much time in an inn where soldiers drink mirabelle and contemplate their lives and futures.
There are few intimate moments shown between the narrator and the little corporal, but one can discern that he is her lover from small details such as him putting his hand over hers, and catching her passport when they are shut alone in a room. The two take rather inconspicuous roles in the latter stages of the story, and the two most prominent roles are the blue-eyed soldier and 'Blackbeard' (a nickname given for similar reasons as 'seagull').
- The English girl. She is blonde.
- the concierge, compared to St Anne.
- the Commissaire of Police
- the woman sitting opposite her on the train
- Madame Grinçon, a friend of the Boiffards.
- the corporal
- Aunt Julie
- Uncle Paul
- Madame, the owner of the café.
- the waiting-boy in the café, with a strident voice.
- a weedy man, who walks into the café.
- the woman at the Café des Amis
Various Points and Themes
- The childish perception of the narrator (big boys=soldiers, red cross tents are like festive marquees)
- The subtle relationship between the narrator and the little corporal
- The location is unknown (X,Y,Z)
- Mansfield experienced the journey herself when journeying to meet her own French lover
- One of the only short stories Mansfield wrote on war and thus the style differs hugely from others
The text is written in the modernist
mode, without a set structure, and with many shifts in the narrative.