This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Sixpence” (1921) by Katherine Mansfield. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Presentation of the text

Title: “Sixpence” 
Author: Katherine Mansfield
Genre: Short story

Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) was a New Zealand writer, best known for her poetry and short stories. Her modernist texts mainly explore the psychological nature of human experience, family life, and gender roles. She also highlights the condition of women in a patriarchal society in the early 20th century. Her most popular works include “The Garden Party” (1922) and “Bliss” (1918). 


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 


The sixpence symbolizes Edward’s guilt for beating Dicky and his need to find forgiveness. It may also symbolize Edward’s inability to express his feelings, even after he is sure that what he did was wrong. It shows that Edward knows the sixpence might not make Dicky forgive him, but he cannot find a way to take back his actions, so he hopes to make thing better with a material gift.

The brown china bear with a painted tongue offers a humorous tone to the story but it is also an important symbol. Edward notices the bear when he comes home tired, and his wife confronts him right away asking him to whip Dicky: “It seemed in the shadow to be grinning at Dicky’s father, to be saying, ‘Hooray, this is what you’ve come home to!’ ”...

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