Why did the author write "The Garden Party" and what does it mean?

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The meaning of this story is very closely intertwined with Mansfield's reasons for writing it. In this story she seems to explore the issue of class and how class consciousness is conveyed and taught. This is shown primarily through the character of Laura, who, as the preparations for the party...

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The meaning of this story is very closely intertwined with Mansfield's reasons for writing it. In this story she seems to explore the issue of class and how class consciousness is conveyed and taught. This is shown primarily through the character of Laura, who, as the preparations for the party are being made, thinks class distinctions are something that she does not feel "not a bit, not an atom." However, during the course of the story, when she hears about the neighbour who has died and she tries to get her mother to call off the garden party, and is seduced by the hat that she is given to wear, she is being schooled to adopt the mannerisms and prejudices of her class, part of which is to regard the working class as being less important. When she goes to visit the body of Mr Scott, she experiences something of an epiphany when she sees just how frivolous her concerns about the party were:

What did garden parties and baskets and lace frocks matter to him? He was far from all those things. He was wonderful, beautiful. While they were laughing and while the band was playing, this marvel had come to the lane. Happy... happy... All is well, said that sleeping face. This is just as it should be. I am content.

Note how the imagined contentness of the dead body contrasts strongly with Laura's own feelings of restlessness and class angst. She, when confronted with the dead body of Mr Scott, feels incredibly guilty for her unnecessary concerns with the garden party, expressed in the "baskets and lace frocks" that have dominated so much of Laura's attention. The story brilliantly ends with the reader being unsure about what Laura is going to do with the truth she has realised. The story therefore concerns primarily the issues of class and how this is something that becomes second nature to people.

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