The Garden Party is a famed story authored by Mansfield. The accountcontrasts the life of the poor and the affluent. It depicts the wayparents bring up their children and the different perceptions thatpeople develop towards others. Mansfield portrays the life led by afamily established amidst a poor neighborhood. The environment thatsurrounds them is dominated by people in need.1To a reader, the question of whether the disenfranchised nature ofother people should hinder the privileges that another family canafford looms. The story, through its characters, portrays how thebarrier can be broken by accepting to venture out of the comfortzone. Laura, a major character in the account defies the odds andairs her sentiments towards the less endowed.
As a child in a wealthy family, the author presents her as naïve andendearing. Like her brother and sister, she is pampered and petted byher mother. Her environment orients her to a privileged life full ofcomfort enjoyed by the middle-class. However, she shows her pragmaticnature by appearing thoughtful of the experiences of others living incottages in the neighborhood.2It is evident that the author uses her to juxtapose successfully howdifferent characters can live under the same environment yet havediverse perceptions of the external surrounding.
First, Mansfield portrays her as caring and willing to undertakevarious tasks in the household. The whole family unanimously agreesthat Laura is good at giving instructions and working with the otherservants. During the preparations for the garden party, sheapproaches the workers with respect and she is surprised by theircourtesy. Through the character’s words, Mansfield brings out theattitude of the workmen as friendly and willing to enter into anagreement with anybody who extends respects to them. Laura believesthat she would do better in the company of such men than in amultitude of the irresponsible boys and girls who frequented thehouse for parties. As the author puts it, “She thinks she would geton much better with men like these.”
From childhood, Laura and her siblings were restricted frominteracting with their neighbors. Their mother believed that thedeplorable conditions that engulfed the vicinity were not fit fortheir class. According to the author, “When the Sheridans werelittle, they were forbidden to set foot there because of therevolting language and of what they might catch.” 3However, Laura and Laurie always found time to stroll outside theircompound. Consequently, they were aware of the atrocious condition ofthe houses and other public facilities that were poorly distributed.Laura evolves to be a different young girl. Unlike the others who arereserved and comfortable with their lives, she believes her familycan always do something indirectly to influence the state of theother inhabitants.
The author uses Laura to prove that compassionate actions do not haveto be directly perpetrated. For example, on the morning of the party,Carter, a peasant in living a short distance from the house fallsfrom his horse and dies. Laura believes that her family has a moralobligation of postponing the party and as a sign of togetherness inmourning the fallen neighborhood. She asserts, "But we can`tpossibly have a garden-party with a man dead just outside the frontgate."4
The family considers her idea hilarious. Her mother believes that themisfortunes of others should not deter them from enjoying thebenefits that they could afford. Since no one shares in hersentiments, she obliges to participate in the party. She almostthinks her idea as futile as she looks herself in the mirror thatportrays a beautiful girl.5She wonders how she cannot be content with what life has offered her.Nonetheless, she perceives it as an injustice for the band`s tunes toreach the ears of a widow with five children left under care.
The early but brief orientation to the conditions endured by theeconomically unstable fellows leads her to take a basket of food tothe bereaved family. According to her mother, the despicable natureof the other villagers would consider a basket of waste a kindgesture. Misfield again exploited the benevolent nature of her maincharacter to ensure to expose her to the diabolical state of Carter’sfamily after his demise.6As Laura approaches the house, she experiences the dull mood of themourners. She feels pity for the window sitting in the dimly litroom. When she finally sees Carters lifeless body, she considers himpeaceful and oblivious of the activities in his surroundings.
In conclusion, Laura’s character contrasts that the other membersof her family. Living in the village that is predominantly poortriggers her compassion. Although her family restricted her fromvisiting the neighborhood, she could sneak and take quick strolls.The author exploits her empathy to bring out the attributes of theother characters. Her mother and siblings appear unconcerned with thegrief experienced by Carter’s family. At the end of the story,Laura does not understand why life can be so unfair to some people.
Alonso, Pilar. "The Literary Text Type: NotesOn A Method Of Analysis Based On Text Linguistics And A PracticalApplication To Katherine Mansfield`s «The Garden Party»."Atlantis13, no. 1/2 (1991): 65-92.
Magalaner, Marvin. TheFiction of Katherine Mansfield.Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971.
Mansfield, Katherine. Thegarden party and other stories.Westminster: Penguin, 1997.
1 Mansfield, Katherine. The garden party and other stories. (Westminster: Penguin, 1997), p22
2 Mansfield, p22
3 Mansfield, p23
4 Mansfield, p23
5 Alonso, Pilar. "The Literary Text Type: Notes On A Method Of Analysis Based On Text Linguistics And A Practical Application To Katherine Mansfield`s «The Garden Party»." Atlantis 13, no. 1/2 (1991): p66
6 Magalaner, Marvin. The Fiction of Katherine Mansfield. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971).