When Laura was about to go to the young man's house, her mother stops her, saying "Don't on any account--" What did this represent?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Crucial to understanding this excellent short story is an awareness of how Mansfield generally in her writing depicted the division of the classes in her native New Zealand. In this and other stories, Mansfield deals with the way in which characters gain class consciousness, or become aware of their social position in relation to the social position of others, and how the must act accordingly. Thus it is that in this story it is acceptable for Laura to go and take a basket of food to the grieving working-class family that has just lost its head, but it was not acceptable for the party to be cancelled for such a trifling reason. Of course, because it was Laura who displayed her innocence or naivety and lack of class consciousness by insisting that the party be cancelled, the mother was probably going to advise her daughter not to do anything that would fall out of the behaviour expected by someone of Laura's station or class.

This of course points to the innate superiority that people of a higher class believe they have and the difference in behaviour that emerges as a result. In this story, as in much of her fiction, Mansfield examines this discrepancy and argues for more compassion, understanding and better treatment of the working class.

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

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