What is the role of money in the short story "The Garden Party" by Katherine Mansfield?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Money has an implicit role in "The Garden Party," being a silent character that guides, governs and motivates the physical characters' words, thoughts and actions. It is money after all that permits costly garden parties with sumptuous spreads of food, "lace frocks," "black hats," and elegant disregard of life and death. When Laura comes up against the conflict of the garden party against a mortal calamity, one which will occur in Laura's garden and one which did occur in Laura's garden, she is implicitly coming up against a conflict of money against poverty, privilege against dependence, which is the dependence of life upon labor and exertion. The black hat, which Laura's mother almost compels Laura to wear when she takes food to deliver to the grieving widow of the accidentally killed laborer, stands as a symbol of all that money can provide and of the blindness to the reality of poverty that money precipitates. This is why Laura exclaims, "Forgive my hat." Money is central to the story; money is the Maypole to the dancers and excluded on-lookers.

Read the study guide:
The Garden Party: And Other Stories

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