Analysis of THE GARDEN PARTY by Katherine Mansfeild

 

In The Garden Party, Katherine Mansfield shows us the life of the upper class,the good side and the bad side.


Summary
             The venue of the party is luxurious. It is a very large colonial style residence. This makes the setting more likely to nNews Zealand. The lifestyle described in this novel is similar to that of Oscar Wilde's Importance of  Being Earnest. The girls in The Garden Party are extremely sheltered e.g Laura and Laurie,though they walked through the lower class, they had no contact with them.  Before Laura even  sets from her house to the lower compartments,there is a  very broad road that is symbloic of the wide gap that exist between the upper and the lower class.
               Right from the beginning of the novel,we see that Laura is highly impressionistic. The party,luxuries,sumptuous ,lavishing , extravagant event happens for them(Sheridan's Familiy). Laura Sheridan had been put in charge and we see she has the skills to do things well. Right there we see her interaction with the lower class and we see the contrast between herself and the workers. Across the story,there are other contrasts e.g beauty-ugly , life- death e.t.c She meets these workers and we see them having working equipment in their hands while Laura hold bread and butter. This is a symbol that demarcates the two life styles from each other,one understanding trait of Mansfield is her ability to use tiny details to pass her message across. Laura is surprised that these workers are also human and she is able to relate with them. She looks a them,likes them and wants to relate with them so she eats her bread and butter happily to show she is equal to them. However her attempts to cross the barrier,depicts there is a barrier she still cannot cross.


               There is another reality in the novel,there is a worker who has blue eyes ,Laura admires it and she is attrracted to him. There is however another reality in a worker whose face is  hardened by poverty and she cannot recognise this.
                 A man comes with cream puffs and also the news of a man's death,this symbolise life and death. His death is  as a result of technology,his horse shies on seeing the cart,he falls  down and dies. Laura hears the story and the joy of the garden party is completely gone from her. She wants to call off the party,but everyone refuses  saying''death happens everyday'' This makes the upper class appears to us as superficial and shallow. However Laura is a more thinking and profound character so she is sober. Her mother,Mrs Sheridan on the other hand is not moved by the man's death.
                The party soon ended and Mr Sheridan who had gone to town comes back to repeat the story of the Carter's death,who lives close to them-ironically he lived close to them yet so far away. Mrs Sheridan becomes quiet as something now intrudes into her life. She tries to pay for her former lack of consideration. She fills a basket with food remnants and asked Laura to take it to the family of the deceased. She feels she is being kind but Laura feels its not the best. Mrs Sheridan is not a thinking character and she allows Laura to go in her fancy dress.
                  At this time,the sun has started setting,it has been an ideal afternoon but  she steps into darkness,death,smell of poverty.etc. Laura goes into another world,she crosses the broad way and enters the Carter's house. In the house,she is conspicuous and her dressing is totally out of place. The wife's face is swollen and puffy in contrast to the cream puffs. She enters the room where the corpse is laid,she sees the corpse as beautiful and at peace from every other thing and she says ''sorry for the hat''(she has a fancy hat on).
               Her mum sends Laurie after her  after expecting her for a while. Laurie sees her and takes her home.In her inability to completer her statement  in describing  to her brother,her experience, she says '' isn't life.........isn't life''
           


Themes in The Garden Party
1. Class consciousness
2. Isolation-Mr and Mrs Sheridan tends to isolate their children from the harsh reality of the world
3. Illusion vs reality
4. Death vs life
5. Sensitivity vs insensitivity

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