Daughters Of The Late Colonel-Katherine Mansfield

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In The Daughters Of The Late Colonel we meet two sisters of an uncertain age, in the week after the death of their father. It is possible to estimate their ages at around the early fifties, because they have a grown-up nephew.

This is the story of two lives which have been distorted by a tyrannical father. It is not only a story of the lost opportunities in the lives of two women, in the literal sense, but a story of a deprived existence, both physical and mental.

When the story opens, the sisters are talking from their seperate beds, in one room-they have since childhood, shared a room, and Josephine remembers similar nights when, as children they had giggled in the night.

Thye have never worked for a living and barely know how to take care of themselves. When they discuss dismissing Kate, the servant, they are excited at the prospect of finding food for themselves, but also worry what that food might be:

'"What should we live on, Jug?"

"Oh, eggs in various forms!" said Jug, lofty again."And

besides, there are all the cooked foods"'

Presumably, they live/exist on their father's army pension, which, at a time when labour was cheap, enables them to employ a servant, and a nurse for their father in his final days, but there is little money to spare. Their poverty is illustrated when they bought a cake and meringues for their nephew, Cyril. These were purchased at some personal sacrifice:

'Josephine's winter gloves or the soling and heeling of Constancia's only respectable shoes.'

Even in death, their father is with them, not just as a haunting memory, but deep in their day-to-day consciousness. At his funeral Josephine 'had a moment of absolute terror' when she thought they were burying...