What are some examples of metaphors used in Katherine Mansfield's story "The Garden Party"?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Katherine Mansfield’s story “The Garden Party” employs a number of different metaphors, including the following:

  • Early in the story, one of the characters is called “the butterfly,” thus comparing her to that creature in its colorful beauty, rapid movement, and flitting movement from place to place.
  • A bit later, the narrator reports of another character that “Laura flew.” Obviously Laura did not literally fly; instead she is being compared to a winged creature in her rapidity of movement.
  • Later, trees are called “proud,” as it they were human, human emotions.
  • Later still, a tiny amount of feeling or emotion is called an “atom,” as if to emphasize its extremely small size.
  • Further along, the narrator reports that

Little faint winds were playing chase, in at the tops of the windows, out at the doors. And there were two tiny spots of sun, one on the inkpot, one on a silver photograph frame, playing too.

Here the winds and spots of sun are described as if they, too, are human – almost as if they are rambunctious young children.

  • Shortly thereafter, a character is said to lean down as if to warm herself at a “blaze of lilies” – a vivid phrase that compares a bunch of flowers to the flames of a fireplace.
  • Later, a piano is described as sounding “desperate,” as if it were capable of having human feelings.
  • Inanimate objects are again compared to humans when the narrator comments, about some houses filled with poor people, that

The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty-stricken.

Next, however, the smoke is described using significantly different metaphors:

Little rags and shreds of smoke, so unlike the great silvery plumes that uncurled from the Sheridans' chimneys.

  • Later, the mother in the story describes the homes of the poor people as “pokey little holes.”
  • Later, people are said to be “coming in streams,” comparing them in their swiftness and ease of movement to flowing water.

In short, Mansfield uses these and various other metaphors in her story. Metaphors are not used in great numbers, but they are used often enough to add some extra vividness and vitality to the story’s phrasing.


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

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