illustration of Laura wearing her mothers hat and holding a basket with a shadowy figure behind her

The Garden Party: And Other Stories

by Katherine Mansfield

Start Free Trial

Contrast Laura with the other members of her family in "The Garden Party."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One point of contrast between Laura and her family members in "The Garden Party" lies in her level of care and philosophical insight.

Laura is different than her family members because she cares and is willing to show it. Even at the start of the story, Laura is willing to converse with the workers, listening and showing care towards their insights.  She does not show disrespect to the workers.  She does not exhibit the same attitudes as her family members towards those who are "lower" on the social spectrum.  

The strongest example of Laura's care is her reaction to young man's death.  Her first reaction is to cancel the garden party. Laura cannot fathom how a celebration could take place in the midst of death.  Her family members do not share her reaction.  Jose disagrees with Laura's idea:

"Stop the garden-party? My dear Laura, don't be so absurd. Of course we can't do anything of the kind. Nobody expects us to. Don't be so extravagant."

Jose enhances this with her belief that Laura "won't bring a drunken workman back to life by being sentimental." Mrs. Sheridan seems "amused" with Laura's proposition, communicating more affection towards the hat that Laura wears than the fact that someone has died. 

While Laura's caring demeanor is different than that of her family members, her philosophical insight is also a point of contrast.  Laura's reaction towards death is much more profound than her family's.  It is one that defies the simplistic notions that her family members possess. When she returns from the service, Laura's thoughts about life and death reflect engagement and philosophical insight that her family members lack:

"No," sobbed Laura. 'It was simply marvelous. But Laurie--' She stopped, she looked at her brother. 'Isn't life,' she stammered, 'isn't life--' But what life was she couldn't explain.

While Laurie does comfort her at the end, it is not clear if he really understands what she means. Throughout the story, he has not communicated the depth that she has voiced.  In her level of emotional expression and her willingness to accept the philosophical depth regarding the unexplainable aspects of life, Laura is different from her family members.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team