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1. What images and ideas are associated with the act of sharing a cup of tea?

2. The opening sentence focuses on Rosemary’s appearance. From whose point of view is Rosemary described.

3. What is implied from the description of Rosemary’s parties?

4. Describe the antique enamel box that Rosemary is shown in the antique shop in Curzon Street.

5. What detail in paragraph three on page 346 emphasises Rosemary’s vanity?

6. Describe, using brief quotations how Rosemary feels in the cold wet afternoon outside the shop.

7. Write down three figurative expressions from the paragraph of the top of page 347 and say what they suggest.

8. Why does Rosemary wish “she had the little box …….. to cling to?

9. How is the young woman who asks for a cup of tea described?

10. Describe Rosemary’s reaction to this request, after her initial astonishment.

11. Re-read the second half of page 348. Write down key phrases/sentences which describe Rosemary’s intentions in bringing Miss Smith home.

12. Comment on the sentence “The great thing was to be natural”.

13. Mansfield describes in detail the time that Rosemary and Miss Smith spend together in Rosemary’s bedroom. Using brief quotations write down all of the details that suggest that Rosemary’s treatment of Miss Smith was insensitive.

14. How does Rosemary describe Miss Smith to Phillip?

15. Describe how Rosemary responds to Phillip’s comments on Miss Smith’s looks.

16. What is significant about the amount of money that Rosemary gives to Miss Smith?

17. How does Rosemary describe Miss Smith’s departure to her husband?

18. Copy out the last sentence of the story. What does it tell us about Rosemary?

19. How is time treated in the story?

20. What contrasts are obvious?


"A Cup of Tea" by Katherine Mansfield (1888 to 1923-New Zealand) is included in the 1923 collection of her work, The Dove's Nest and Other Stories edited by Mansfield's husband, John Middleton Murry. There is a very moving introduction to this collection in which Murry lets us know details about the next ten stories his wife was going to write. There is a temptation in reading Mansfield to see her work as artistically peaking in 1921 and 1922 given that we know these are her last stories. I sense a rapid growth in her artistic depth during this period but it is a feeling of a writer just starting to find her true power not of a writer at her zenith.

I really like "A Cup of Tea" a lot. It, among other things, does a brilliant job of depicting matrimonial jealousy and insecurity. Our lead character is a very wealthy young woman, Rosemary, seemingly recently married. Her time is largely taken up with looking for ways to spend money. As the story opens she has just bought a small box in an exquisite shop, the cost is about six months pay for an ordinary working man of the time. (No doubt it is at least a year's pay for a young female servant.) There is a world in these few lines:

One winter afternoon she had been buying something in a little antique shop in Curzon Street. It was a shop she liked. For one thing, one usually had it to oneself. And then the man who kept it was ridiculously fond of serving her. He beamed whenever she came in. He clasped his hands ; he was so gratified he could scarcely speak. Flattery, of course. All the same, there was something..." You see, madam," he would explain in his low respectful tones, " I love my things. I would rather not part with them than sell them to someone who does not appreciate them, who has not that fine feeling which is so rare..." And, breathing deeply he unrolled a tiny square of blue velvet and pressed it on the glass counter with his pale finger-tips.

Rosemary has been reading Dostoevsky lately and when she is approached by a very bedraggled looking young woman asking for the price of a cup of tea she is at first put off but then she decides to have a bit of an adventure. She invites the girl to come home with her. The girl is so hungry she overcomes her fear at talking with someone so far above her station in life and agrees to go with Rosemary.
The story is not long and the psychological depth of the work is great so I will not tell any more of the plot action. As I was reading this, I thought that maybe Mansfield in "A Cup of Tea" is gently (or maybe not so gently!) mocking or satirizing the world Mansfield's wealthy parents (her father was the Chairman of the Bank of New Zealand) wanted her to live in.
I love the opening description of Rosemary and her world:
ROSEMARY FELL was not exactly beautiful. No, you couldn't have called her beautiful. Pretty ? Well, if you took her to pieces . .. But why be so cruel as to take anyone to pieces ? She was young, brilliant, extremely modern, exquisitely well dressed, amazingly well read in the newest of the new books, and her parties were the most delicious mixture of the really important people and... artists—quaint creatures, discoveries of hers, some of them too terrifying for words, but others quite presentable and amusing.Rosemary had been married two years. She had a duck of a boy. No, not Peter—Michael. And her husband absolutely adored her. They were rich, really rich, not just comfortably well off, which is odious and stuffy and sounds like one's grandparents. But if Rosemary wanted to shop she would go to Paris as you and I would go to Bond Street. If she wanted to buy flowers, the car pulled up at that perfect shop in Regent Street.

This is just a near perfect story. Thanks to the wonderful New Zealand Electronic Text Center you can read it online.


The story, “A Cup of Tea” tells us how people show generosity to people whom they consider their inferior. People do so partly to show off their superiority to the poorer beings. Generosity in most cases is only to satisfy one’s ego. The story further shows how generosity and benevolence evaporates when the object of pity goes against one’s self interest, ego and vanity. Rosemary Fell was very rich. Though she was not very pretty, she made up for it as she lived in extreme style and fashion. One cold night, after coming out of a shop of fancy antiques, she came across a girl by the name of Miss Smith. The poor girl wanted the price of a cup of tea from Rosemary. It seemed to be a very romantic adventure for Rosemary like those events that take place in novelos or on the stage. She thought of doing something generous. She asked the girl to come home and take tea with her. The poor girl was startled at it. She did not believe Rosemary at first. She even suspected that Rosemary might hand her over to the police.
But at last Rosemary took her home. All the generous impulses worked in Rosemary. She wanted to show that those nice things that happened in novels and fairy tales about godmothers and generous rich people did really happen in real life also. She felt the unity in all of all women too. She thought it was a duty of a woman to help another woman. She took the girl upstairs to her bed room. The girl was very nervous at the unexpected turn of things. But Rosemary was all encouragement. She even helped her take off her clothes. She asked her maid servant to bring her some brandy and then tea. The poor girl was too hungry. She declared that she would faint if she did not take some tea at once. Rosemary gave her tea, sandwiches, and bread and butter. The meal had a very good effect on the girl. She looked much better.
Now it was the turn of Rosemary to enquire about the girl and shower her generosity on the poor creature. She was going to begin her enquiry when her husband, Phillip, came in. Rosemary introduced the poor girl, Miss Smith, to him as her friend. Phillip was a little astonished. He asked his wife to come to the library. When they were alone he asked her about the girl. Rosemary told him all about it and her intention to keep the girl in her house and be generous to her. Phillip, a practical man, knew that it was not practical. He told his wife. But Rosemary who knew more of romantic novels than life would not listen to him. She only wondered why it was not possible if it could be possible in books.


The husband knew more about life. He replied that it was not possible because Miss Smith was very pretty and he was almost bowled over when he first saw her. He even warned her that it would be a mistake if she kept her in the house. The wise husband’s arrow hit the right point. The great generosity of Rosemary faced an acid test of reality. She was jealous of the poor girl whom her husband found so pretty. Her romantic generosity simply evaporated like vapor in the face of petty jealousy. Rosemary went away to her writing room. She took out three pounds. She gave the girl the money and sent her away. Rosemary put on her nice dress, did her hair, darkened her eyes, put her pearls and came to her husband. She told him that Miss Smith would not stay for dinner and that she gave her some money. Suddenly she asked him whether he liked her. She asked him to kiss her and asked him whether she could buy the little box that she had seen in the antique shop. At last she asked him if she was pretty. Rosemary was jealous. She wanted to be reassured that her husband loved her still.


The story is written by Katherine Mansfield – a famous New Zealand writer. She is well known for her short stories. The analysis of the one of them called ‘A Cup of Tea’ (1922) which is considered to be one of her latest works you can find below.

From the first lines we get acquainted with the protagonist of the story – Rosemary Fell. Her appearance is being presented. ‘No you couldn’t have called her beautiful Pretty?’ We have rather vague image here. The author writes she is amazingly well-read in the newest of the books which sounds controversial.

Her husband adores her; her child is a duck of a boy. We can trace that she is extremely arrogant and she has a certain amount of charisma. “No lilac. It’s got no shape. The attendant put the lilac out of sight as though this was only too true.” But even fabulously rich people have their problems.

After shutting the discreet door she sinks into a grey cold and dull life of the city, the life of ordinary people to which she is like an alien. A cold bitter taste in the air, sad lamps, regretting fire of lamps, rushing people and their hateful umbrellas – everything speaks of her inner dissatisfaction and maybe allergy to the other life, the life which is outside her shelter. She wants to escape from the place and presses a muff against her breast as though touching herself and saying “I want to be back to my real life not this awful parody of being”.

Suddenly a girl stammered as author writes for the price of a cup of tea in a very desperate way. But in fact Rosemary is amazed instead of feeling some kind of sympathy. She peers through the dusk as though feeling some distance and it seems to her such an adventure. Rosemary doesn’t spare even a smallest moment of her thought to stand in the girls shoes or rather she just can’t since she doesn’t know the opposite side of the coin. The only way of living she knows is one that is in the little antique shop on Curzon Street or, say, another one on Bond Street.

So Rosemary takes her home feeling a triumph as she nets a little captive. It’s evident that Rosemary is just playing with a prey like a cat does.”Now, I got you”. Rosemary is longing to be generous and is going to prove that as Mansfield writes ‘wonderful things do happen in life’, in the life of the upper class, to which Rosemary is a fine example, and it seems that the only things she cares about are her feelings and amusement.

After they arrive at the house the action starts in Rosemary’s bedroom. Mansfield is trying to underline Rosemary’s status – ‘the fire leaping on her wonderful lacquer furniture’, ‘gold cushions’ all these things dazed the poor girl. Rosemary on her part was very relaxed and pleased; she lit a cigarette in stead of taking proper care of Miss Smith. By the way her name is not even mentioned yet, like it’s of no importance at all. We can find the girl on the brink of the psychological despair. “I am going to faint, to go off, madam.” So much she is stuck by the contrast. “It was a terrible fascinating moment. Rosemary knelt beside her chair” The girl becomes completely restless: “I can’t bear it. I shall do away with myself” Rosemary is “really touched beyond words” but suddenly she asks her to stop crying “It’s so exhausting. Please stop crying” Rosemary shows her true face here. She can’t face the reality the poor as it is; Rosemary Fell sees everything in rose-coloured spectacles, through the filter of the upper class society. And it looks if not pathetic then quite sad.

But after the marvelous meal our creature transforms into something undeniably attractive – “frail creature, a kind of sweet languor”. And for Rosemary it’s high time to begin. Instead of asking her name or other decent question Rosemary’s firstly was interested in her meal, it is quite impolite.

Then Philip enters, smiling his charming smile and asks his wife to come in to the library. He requires explanations from his wife, learning that the girl is as Rosemary says ‘a real pick up’ that Rosemary wanted “to be nice to her’. Philip guesses what is all about shows his remonstrance against the idea ‘it simply can’t be done’. And then he uses his heavy artillery – calls miss Smith ‘so astonishingly pretty’. He knows it will do some harm to his wife. These words immediately heat jealousy in Rosemary’s veins up. “Pretty? Do you think that?” and she could help blushing. “She’s absolutely lovely!” Rosemary looses her temper “You absurd creature!” She recollects his words over and over. And all leads to the phrase “Miss Smith won’t dine with us tonight” We can observe that Philip doesn’t seem to look surprised “Oh, what happened? Previous engagement?” he rather knew it would happen. Rosemary is eager to retain her husband’s attention.”Do you like me?” May I have the enamel box? “Philip, am I pretty?”The Rosemary seems to be so distant from poverty but on the other hand she doesn’t have anything really valuable, like a basement to lead such glorious life in this world – no taste, no wish to see the world in the raw, sometimes no manners, and perhaps even no prettiness. That’s why she is trying to have things and do things which would help to retain the status like knowing more about the poor and having beautiful things to be associated with. To put in a nutshell the story is reach in different stylistic devices and I think conveys a distinct and valuable message.

21. Is her husband Michael or Peter?

22. Asked by Anonymous on 27th May, 2009

23. Report This

24. +1

25. -6

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27. 6

28. What kind of person is Rosemary? Where dose her help come from? What is her illusion?

29. Asked by Anonymous on 29th May, 2009

30. Report This

31. +1

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34. 1

35. Why does she like shopping at antique stores?

36. Asked by Anonymous on 15th July, 2009

37. Report This

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39. -5

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41. 2

42. What year was the setting in?

43. Asked by Anonymous on 17th July, 2009

44. Report This

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48. 2


50. Asked by Anonymous on 28th July, 2009

51. Report This

52. +1

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56. What does Rosemary's response to the shopkeepe's flattery reveal about her character?

57. Asked by Anonymous on 12th August, 2009

58. Report This

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63. Characteristics of rosemary fell?

64. Asked by Anonymous on 16th August, 2009

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71. Asked by Anonymous on 17th August, 2009

72. Report This

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76. 2

77. So does Phillip love her? Or is he just toying with her.

78. Asked by Anonymous on 12th June, 2010

79. Report This

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84. How does Nehru in his essay Animal in Prison describe the moonsoon season ?

85. Asked by Anonymous on 28th April, 2011

86. Report This

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91. How is rosemary and MS. smith different?

92. Asked by Anonymous on 6th May, 2011

93. Report This

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98. What do rosemary's impressions of Curzon Street suggest about her emotional state?

99. Asked by Anonymous on 2nd June, 2011

100. Report This

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104. 1

105. Who was miss smith and how did rosemary treat her in the story?

106. Asked by Anonymous on 30th August, 2011

107. Report This

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111. 2


113. Asked by Anonymous on 11th January, 2012

114. Report This

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118. 2

119. What are some examples of figurative language in the story?

120. Asked by Anonymous on 6th February, 2012

121. Report This

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125. 1

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