The Garden Party

by Vaclav Havel

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What is the meaning of the last paragraph of "The Garden Party" by Katherine Mansfield?

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The last paragraph of "The Garden Party" has to do with the effect of death upon the consciousness of a person. After Laura "crosses the broad road" that divides her upper-class home from those at the bottom of the hill and visits the house of the man who was killed, she realizes that despite differing social classes, everyone shares a common humanity.

It seems that Laura's encounter with the dead Mr. Scott has a profound affect on her. While she is at first nervous about going down the hill and bringing the leftovers of the garden party to the poor Scotts, Laura is brought into the house by the sister of Mrs. Scott. Being rather uncomfortable in the presence of the grieving woman, Laura tells the sister, "Please, please don't disturb her. I - I only want to leave—"

Then, Laura tries to find the way outside, but instead walks into the room where the dead man lies. She feels that she should say something to Mr. Scott, who looks "so remote, so peaceful. . . He was given up to his dream. What did garden-parties and baskets and lace frocks matter to him?"

Laura apologizes for her black hat placed earlier on her head by her mother (a disguise, perhaps, against the outside world), and she departs. In the last paragraph of the story, Laura arrives home. Her brother, seeing Laura is emotional, tells her not to cry, but Laura insists that "it was marvellous," adding, "Isn't life?" When Laurie asks her to explain, she is unable. Laurie somehow understands, "Isn't it, darling?" Laura has an epiphany in her burgeoning understanding that although life is inscrutable, all people are tied together by common experiences, such as death.

Laura has been isolated from the outside world in her home and with her family's wealth, a fact suggested early in the narrative as she wishes that the "silly boys she danced with" were as friendly and nice as the workmen setting things up for the party. After the garden party, she leaves her family and "crosses the broad road" to the poor neighborhood where a young man has been killed. When she enters this man's home and sees him in the casket, Laura realizes she, Mr. Scott, and the "nice workmen" are all part of the same world, a world in which people live and die.

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