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

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What is the relationship between Laura and Jose in "The Garden Party"?

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Laura is presented very differently from her older and more experienced sister Jose. At the start of the story, Laura considers class distinctions to be "asburd" and says that they do not matter to her, "not a bit, not an atom..." Likewise Laura is presented as naive and innocent, unsure of how to handle the men who come to put up the marquee. In contrast, Jose, we are told, has no lack of confidence when it comes to the servants:

Jose loved giving orders to the servants and they loved obeying her. She always made them feel they were taking part in some drama.

Clearly, however, the biggest difference comes in the different reactions to the news of the death of Mr. Scott. Laura feels that the party must be cancelled straight away, considering how terrible it would be for the family to hear the music of the band they had hired in their grief. The harder, older Jose, on the other hand, takes a more pragmatic view:

"If you're going to stop a band playing every time someone has an accident, you'll lead a very strenuous life. I'm every bit as sorry about it as you. I feel just as sympathetic." Her eyes hardened. She looked at her sister just as she used to when they were little and fighting together. "You won't bring a drunken workman back to life by being sentimental," she said softly.

This, then, is perhaps the key difference between the two sisters. Jose is shown as a character who already knows her place in the world and the place occupied by others. Laura still has not yet learned the class consciousness that her sister exhibits. Jose assumes that Mr. Scott died through being drunk, even though no reference was made to this at all. Laura, still focussing on the tragedy of the event, wants to cancel the party as an act of sympathy, but finds no support from her sister and mother.

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