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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How is irony used in "The Garden Party"?

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The third-person-limited point of view immediately establishes the irony because of the distance between information and subject matter.The narrator withholds information in favor of limiting what she says to what Laura thinks and experiences. She generally does not understand the import of what she undergoes that day, at least not until the very end, when she says "isn't life, isn't life?" only for her brother to interrupt her, misinterpret her, and silence the knowledge about death she had just obtained from visiting the cottage of the man who had died.  But right at the beginning the setting offers irony, for the day is "ideal, could not have been more perfect for a garden party," but the real significance of the day is the death of the man, and the beauty of that day and the tragedy of that even have little to do with each other. Laura's innocence and light-heartedness at the beginning of the story in interacting with the workmen, her mother, and her brother are also ironic in relation to the death that concludes the story. And, finally, it is ironic that Laura wants deperately to be like her mother, which is why she even tries to copy her mother's voice when she speaks to the workmen, when the mother in fact is superficial, lacking the moral grounding that Laura needs.

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