A Cup of Tea – Summary

A Cup of Tea’ by Katherine Mansfield deals with an upper-class woman. The female protagonist Rosemary Fell, is a bundle of social snobberies. But Mansfield shows that whatever the status, a woman of Rosemary’s type is a woman after all, frail, and jealous, in spite of her desire to appear otherwise.


The story begins with a depiction of the chief characteristics of the female protagonist- Rosemary Fell. She was pretty, young, brilliant, extremely modern, extra ordinarily well dressed, amazingly well read. She was very rich and organized parties; and her parties were the most delicious mixture of the really important people. Her shopping used to be very expensive and choosy.

One winter afternoon Rosemary went inside a little antique shop in Curzon Street. This was the usual shop where the shopkeeper was ridiculously fond of serving her. The man on the counter showed her “an exquisite little enamel box” with a very fine glaze as if baked in cream. The shopman was much interested to sell this creamy box to her as he would gain a big margin. As the box was too expensive, priced twenty eight guineas, Rosemary asked the shopkeeper to keep it for her.

The weather, too, on that winter afternoon was not fine. It was rainy and dark. Rosemary also felt a cold bitter taste in the air and thought of having an extra special tea at home. At that very instant a young thin, dark, shadowy, a little battle poor creature – a beggar girl – later named Miss Smith asked for the price of a cup of tea, in a very sobbing.

Rosemary thought of extra ordinary more than extra ordinary adventure. She brought that shivering thin beggar girl to her big cosy house though the poor girl was very apprehensive. Rosemary wanted to prove to that girl that wonderful things happen in life, that fairy god mothers (like her) were real, that rich people (like her) had hearts that “woman were sisters”.

The poor beggar girl felt much uncomfortable in her new surroundings amidst warmth, softness, high a sweet scent, beautiful big bedroom, curtains, wonder furniture, gold cushions and comfy chair of Rosemary’s house. After much difficulty Rosemary could handle that poor girl and make her take a slight meal of sandwich, bread and butter, and tea. The slight meal had a big effect upon the poor beggar girl.

At this juncture Philip, Rosemary’s husband entered their room and wanted to know all about this real pick up. He tried hard to make Rosemary understand the difficulties in her plans to be nice to this pick up girl, and he explained that Rosemary’s plans were just not feasible. But Philip had to adopt some other method to get rid of this poor beggar girl. He aroused feelings of jealously in Rosemary’s mind by praising beggar girl’s beauty. He called her ‘pretty’ ‘absolutely lovely’. Now Rosemary considered the beggar girl her rival in beauty and love. Rosemary did not want to lose her husband. She paid the poor little girl a present of money and sent her out. Rosemary dressed up herself – by doing her hair, darkening her eyes and putting on her pearls – in order to look attractive. As she talked to her husband her tone became husky and troubled. Now she could see the danger in her fascinating plan.

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