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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Garden Party" by Katherine Mansfield is a wonderful, multi-layered story about a young girl who, after spending a wonderful day at a garden party, travels down the road to visit the home and family of young man who was killed on the street earlier that day.  The stark contrast between the two events serves to illustrate the theme of loss of innocence.

On the day of the party the young lady, Laura, is caught up in the preparations for the garden party and what hat she ought to wear.  Once she hears that a man has been killed down the way she immediately thinks they should cancel their party, but in reality, her world and the world of the poor worker couldn't be further away and her mother says, "don't be absurd...don't be so extravagant."  The mother is directly commenting on the youthful innocence of her daughter.  The party goes on as expected, but the idea of the dead man hasn't left Laura's mind.  She asks if she can bring a basket of food to the grieving family, and that short journey down the road brings her to a very mature understanding of life and death.  She is very uncomfortable in the dead man's home surrounded by his family members, but when she actually sees the peaceful look on the man's face as he lies in repose, she realizes there is a simple eloquence in death that everyone shares.  She tells her brother that the experience was "simply marvellous."  While this sounds a bit odd, it is a perfect expression of her growth and new-found maturity.  She sees into the complexity of life and the simplicity of death and she is a different person after this experience.

tahiya | Student

''The Garden Party'' by Katherine Mansfield is a story about a young girl belonging to the higher class society and her new realization towards life. Throughout the story she becomes more matured and develops a new and clearer idea about life. There are some symbols used in the story to signify class distinction such as in the first paragraph in the story there is a line,''As for roses..........................the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing.'' Rose is a common flower and it is more available than any other expensive flower. Only this flower generously divides its beauty and fragrance for everyone,whether that everyone is rich or poor. The karakas tree is another important symbol as it signifies isolation. From childhood the Sheridan children were taught sophisticated norms and manners,so they were not allowed to play with the children living in the cottages. their parents had the idea that their elite attitude will be diminished if they become friends with them. Like karakas tree the Sheridan children were lonely in their perfect little world. The hat that Laura wears makes her conscience moving back and forth in deciding to be swayed by her family's harsh ignorance towards humanity or not. The'' broad way'' Laura passes in order to go to the Scott's house is like an entrance into real world from her world of fake perfection. And at the end the end of the story she realizes that life is wonderful and class distinction does not work everywhere. When the night falls it is equally dark for everyone. The garden party shows the public display of aristocracy of the privileged people.In the story Laura is a bit alienated in her family as her thoughts are different and always searching for something. Also her approach towards the average people is different. The only person she seems to have a connection with is her brother Laurie. But throughout the story Laurie talks only with Laura and not with anyone else. Then may be Laurie is Laura's imagination.

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

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