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How can the theme of "The Garden Party" be expressed as a statement of conflict?

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lungbuster22 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 27, 2013 at 4:08 AM via web

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How can the theme of "The Garden Party" be expressed as a statement of conflict?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 27, 2013 at 6:41 AM (Answer #1)

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One of the central themes of this incredible story could be described as the move from innocence to experience undergone by the central protagonist, Laura. She starts off as an innocent young lady who believes rather naively that class difference is something that doesn't matter and should be ignored completely. Of course, as the story progresses, with the death of Mr. Scott, she realises that class differences matter immensely, and that they define so much of how people relate to each other. She is made to see that the death of a working class labourer is nothing important compared to a social event for the upper classes, and she is finally seduced into forgetting about her momentary qualms when she is given a hat by her mother that makes her look beautiful.

It is only at the end of the story, when she confronts the dead Mr. Scott, that she undergoes something of an epiphany where she is made to see precisely how unimportant garden parties are when faced with the realities of death:

What did garden-parties and baskets and lace frocks matter to him? He was far from all those things. He was wonderful, beautiful. While they were laughing and while the band was playing, this marvel had come to the lane.

The way in which Laura describes the death of Mr. Scott as a "marvel" and also the obvious contrast between the frivolous, superficial nature of the garden party and the far more serious description of Mr. Scott's death highlights the move from innocence to experience undergone by Laura: she ends the story a far wiser person than at the beginning, having learnt something about the enduring power of class differences but also the solemnity of death that puts the somewhat frivolous nature of human interactions into sharp relief.

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