How do Laura's strong feelings about the workmen foreshadow her strong feelings about canceling the party in "The Garden Party"?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Garden Party" by Katherine Mansfield is a short story in which class distinction plays a large role.  Laura is part of a rich, aristocratic family.  When we meet them, all but Laura are consumed with the details and finishing touches of the party, though they are doing virtually nothing to actually prepare for it.  Well, except for themselves.  Instead, a series of workers come to the house to do the various tasks which need doing before the gathering.  Laura is drafted to accompany them as she is the "artistic one." When she sees them for the first time, she is struck by the dramatic difference between them and the men in her world. 

Four men in their shirt-sleeves stood grouped together on the garden path. They carried staves covered with rolls of canvas, and they had big tool-bags slung on their backs. They looked impressive.

She feels somhow as if they're superior to her, for they are doing and accomplishing things--something she's not apparently used to seeing.  She remarks to herself "How very nice workmen were!"  She follows them and tries rather ineffectually to assert herself.  Instead, the men move straight to the practical as they set up their tents.  She observes one of the workmen raising a flower to his nose to savor the scent.  This was an utterly foreign sight to her.

Oh, how extraordinarily nice workmen were, she thought. Why couldn't she have workmen for her friends rather than the silly boys she danced with and who came to Sunday night supper? She would get on much better with men like these.

These feelings aren't particularly surprising for an "artistic" or sensitive young girl.  What is surprising is that she was raised in a home which virtually ignores anyone from the working class and who do not understand her--or her sympathetic view of the working class.

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