The Garden Party

Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party: Illustration of Social and Economic Classes

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Social and Economic Classes in Katherine Mansfield’s “The Garden Party”

Words like “wealthy”, “perfect”, “charming”, and “happy” accurately describe what you first see when you look at the Sheridan family in Katherine Mansfield’s story, “The Garden Party”. While words like “unsophisticated”, “grieving”, “poor”, and “wretched” portray the working-class neighbourhood living just down the street from them. “The Garden Party”, in a nutshell, focuses on the preparation and aftermath of the Sheridan family’s exquisite and expensive garden party, taken place in the early summer. The story revolves around Marxist themes such as class consciousness and marginalization of the lower-class. When looking at “The Garden Party” through a Marxist lens, readers are exposed to differences between social classes, treatment of economic status’, and class division.

Social class is first introduced at the very beginning of the story, while everyone is doing something to prepare for the garden party. In the opening scene, the upper-class is represented by the Sheridan family, while the lower-class is represented by the workmen hired by the Sheridan’s. Both are shown preparing very differently for the party, which clearly exhibits a difference in social class. The Sheridan’s are inside, preparing themselves by taking showers and eating breakfast while the workmen are outside, preparing the actual party by doing all the manual labour. As the preparation goes on, and Laura is supervising the workmen, there is a moment when one of the worker’s takes the time to smell a sprig of lavender in the garden, and Laura asks herself: “How many men that she knew would have done such a thing?” (Mansfield 2) It is now revealed to the reader that Laura has never truly associated with people like this; people that take time to appreciate non-materialistic beauty in life. This is her first real encounter with someone of the lower-class. Laura starts to think about the people in her life and thinks to herself, “She would get on much better with men like these” (Mansfield 2). This statement, in a way, foreshadows Laura’s feelings towards the lower-class later on in the story.

As the story progresses, it is clear to see how Mrs. Sheridan treats/defines someone based on their economic status. When the news gets out to the family that a man from the working-class neighbourhood living just down the street passed away, Laura seems to be the only one who feels it would be impolite to have a party while a family grieving only a few houses away. Mrs. Sheridan does not handle the situation as well as she could have and each word she says sounds more and more arrogant. When the party is over and done with, she suggests to Laura: “Let’s make up a basket. Let’s send that poor creature some of this perfectly good food” (Mansfield 10). Before the party, she would have said/did anything to keep the party running; and now that it is over, she could care less what happens next. This makes it obvious that the whole purpose of Mrs. Sheridan’s costly garden party was for her to boast about her financial status. From purchasing overly expensive flowers, to hiring people to do the dirty work for her, she made sure everyone knew, whether it was intentional or not, how much money she had. As Laura brings the left-over table scraps from the party to her neighbour’s home, she travels to a completely contrasting world. When the story began, the day was described as, “Windless, warm, the sky without a cloud. Only the blue was veiled with a haze of light gold” (Mansfield 1). Now, as she crosses over into the lower-class neighbourhood, the setting becomes, “Smoky and dark” (Mansfield 10). It is described to be beaten down and visually, a bad economy. When she arrives at the home, she is led to a room with the dead man’s lifeless body laying on a bed. Because of the family’s economic status, they could not afford a real visitation. So instead, spent no money, and paid their respects the only way they could.

Throughout the entire story, social classes are being clearly divided. The story depicts the lower-class neighbourhood being separated across a large road from the upper-class neighbourhood. It is a visual/physical division of class and can also be used as a symbol to represent status’ being divided. Classes are also being divided by an unspoken circumvention. No upper-class character has integrated with other social classes, and earlier in the story, Laura questioned that when she thought: “Why couldn’t she have workmen for her friends rather than the silly boys she danced with and who came to Sunday night supper?” (Mansfield 2) This shows the readers a progression of the growth in Laura’s character. By the end of the story, class division is being more and more illustrated. When Laura is walking through the lower-class neighbourhood, she feels like an outsider. Women are wearing shawls, men are wearing tweed caps, and she is wearing an expensive party dress and hat. All eyes seem to be on her. This goes to show how much each class stands out to one another and how unusual it is that someone from the upper-class would be walking through an area of the lower-class.

“The Garden Party” is filled with Marxist themes and makes it very clear for readers to pick out differences between social and economic status’. Laura, the central character, starts off very excited for the day and by the end, is more aware of the consequences of her social position. She begins stuck in a world of high-class housing, food, family, and garden parties and in the course of just one day, clicks back to reality. All it took was for her to encounter how the other half lives to really open her eyes. Katherine Mansfield lets readers see the world from the eyes of Laura and with that, unmasks the world of Marxism to both Laura and the readers. Laura shows her coming-of-age is more of an awakening to the deception of the upper-class society she grew up knowing. As a whole, the story is a good representation of different classes in society and accurately depicts how classes are divided.

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Hat as a Key Symbol in Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Party Hat

In The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield, Laura Sheridan’s inability to escape the social caste system is represented by her extravagant hat. While Laura grapples with class distinctions and accepting her role in an upper-class family, her relatives have been fully socially conditioned to ignore the misery in the outside world. Her sister, Jose, is a prime example of how cold and self-absorbed nobles were raised to be. She sings with mock passion along to a melancholy song about life being “wee-ary, a tear—a sigh” (4) even though she cannot remotely relate to ever having a weary or tearful life. Ignorant of the suffering of others, Jose thus sings without real compassion, which shows when she flashes a “brilliant, dreadfully unsympathetic” (5) grin as the final chord to the gloomy song plays. In contrast, the reader can see Laura questioning her narrow-minded education. While conversing with the work men of a lower class, she decides: “It’s all the fault…of these absurd class distinctions…and how she despised stupid conventions” (2). She yearns to bridge the divide between these lower-class workers and herself, and by imagining herself as a “work-girl” (2) rather than an aristocratic woman, she shows her awareness of a class-conscious society and an ability to relate to others. This empathy sets her apart from the rest of her family. They all have a small inkling of the world outside of their shallow and privileged bubble, but Laura attempts to push past the purposeful ignorance. This clash is seen more clearly when Laura calls her mother and sister “terribly heartless” (8) for easily dismissing the death of their penurious neighbor, Scott, and for not stopping the garden party out of respect. However, her resistance against throwing the party vanishes when Mrs. Sheridan places a fashionable and striking hat on Laura’s head.

After seeing her beautiful reflection in the mirror, Laura decides to go along with her mother and forget about her impoverished and grieving neighbors. Her plan to mention her qualms and doubts about the garden party to her brother, Laurie, also fades once he compliments her hat. Throughout the garden party, Laura becomes completely enveloped in the superficial and profligate upper-class life; as more people praise her hat and appearance, the more her previous worries about offending Scott’s family becomes “blurred, unreal, like a picture in the newspaper” (8). Thus, the hat symbolizes her status. Due to her insular upbringing, such as the way she was taught to treat others of lower classes, she becomes a person who cares little for the well-being of others. Social values and her surrounding family sets a cage around Laura’s natural curiosity and empathy. With the hat, Mrs. Sheridan also passed on her class-consciousness and provincial worldview to Laura. The hat, both literally and figuratively, keeps her head covered as she is now ensnared by the social stratification that restricts her understanding of others’ suffering. In fact, she is so swept up with the garden party that she now becomes hesitant to bring a food basket to Scott’s family.

As she starts down the road to her neighbor’s house, her pre-party anxieties had evaporated into “kisses, voices, tinkling spoons, laughter…She had no room for anything else” (10). Laura has become just as cold and self-absorbed as her sister, Jose. It is not until she gazes upon Scott’s peaceful features that she is reminded of the trivial class restrictions that she has been unconsciously questioning with her entire life. When she sobs “forgive my hat” (12) at the dead man, the reader understands that Laura has reached a crucial turning point—Laura admits to selfishly enjoying fancy clothes, expensive food, and extravagant parties, but she now somewhat understands that life has a deeper meaning and is much more than frivolous festivities and goods. Laura’s face-to-face encounter with death and poverty shocks her into a realization that her life is superficial because she will always be her status—a “party hat”—a façade of show and decoration to impress others and nothing else.

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Personal Perspective on the Society

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Through discovering a new perspective, an individual may become able to re-evaluate the values of their world and gain a new insight into their own beliefs or morals. These discoveries are meaningful on a personal and societal level, as they facilitate change. In his poem Meatworks, Robert Gray explores the way in which his attitude towards his society has changed as a result of his own discoveries, and consequently encourages his readers to question their own personal values. His poem Late Ferry, whilst also appearing to display a negative attitude towards Western Culture, demonstrates a more acceptant, Buddhist mindset, being that the flaws and attributes of his society necessitate one another. This notion of emotional and spiritual discoveries playing a role in an individual’s societal perspective is further explored in Katherine Mansfield’s short story entitled The Garden Party. Through these new perspectives, discoveries have the ability to influence the culture of a society through their personal and social ramifications.

An individual’s perspective may become altered as a result of discoveries, as they offer a new insight and thus encourage an individual to re-evaluate the way in which they view their society. Robert Gray explored this theme in his poem Meatworks, in which he aims to evoke moral discoveries in his audience as a result of his own. After exploring the lack of humanity within the slaughterhouse, represented through his gory depiction of the pigs as “bags of blood,” Gray demonstrates the way in which this revelation has influenced his perspective. As he now sees the once “white-bruising beach” in “mauve light”, he uses pathetic fallacy in order to create a physical depiction of his newfound understanding. This, in conjunction with his metonymic portrayal of the pig’s fate, is representative of Gray’s own discovery and subsequent growth. In her text The Garden Party, Katherine Mansfield also demonstrates the way in which discoveries can alter perspectives, however her focus is on the way in which the physical and spiritual realization of death and mortality can influence people to re-evaluate their own lifestyle. At the beginning, Laura, the perspective character, appears conscious of her own class, saying that her “upbringing made her wonder […] whether it was respectful for a workman to talk to her of bangs slap in the eye.” Through this apparent juxtaposition of Laura’s own formal narrative voice and the workman’s colloquialisms, the clear distinction and structure of Laura’s life is demonstrated. However, after her discovery of the futility of this lifestyle in relation to death, she stammers, “isn’t life—“ and it is then said that “what life was she couldn’t explain.” This change in the sophistication of Laura’s speech and her lack of clarity is reflective of her altered perspective in regards to her lifestyle and societal structure. Through these discoveries, the way in which an individual views their world may change as a result of new values and attitudes.

Changes in perspectives often result in a re-evaluation of the values of an individuals society, as it’s morals – or lack thereof – are brought to light and a judgement must be made. Robert Gray is one composer who challenged the values of his society, as he questioned the morality of a slaughterhouse in which he worked in his poem The Meatworks. Throughout this poem, Gray suggests that due to westernization, people are now willing to act inhumanely in exchange for monetary payment. Through graphic imagery, Gray demonstrates his disgust with the slaughterhouse, seen in his gory description of the pig’s “dripping solidified like candlewax.” Using elision and simile, he appears to be unable to convey in full the horror of the factory. In return for committing these acts, he says that the workers receive “frail, green money,” his depiction of which both highlights its lack of integrity and alludes to Australia’s link to American currency and lifestyle.

Gray further shows his distaste for Industrialization and Westernization in Late Ferry, in which he refers to his society as a Busby Berkeley spectacular. Through his use of ekphrasis, Gray evokes an image of mindless clockwork, implying the lack of deeper meaning. However, contrary to his clear moral standpoint in The Meatworks, Gray now uses his own non-western ideal of unity and harmony in order to justify the actions of his Western society. By applying the Buddhist concept of light and dark necessitating one another, Gray is able to demonstrate that he can only see the light of the ferry “while it’s on darkness”, choosing to accept his world rather than harshly judge it. As a result of the discoveries he has made, Gray has been able to both discover his attitude towards his own societies and make a judgement on the value of these evaluations. While they discover new attitudes and perspectives in regards to their society, individuals also gain new insights into their own beliefs. These new understandings are conducive to change within a culture, as people begin to question their world. Robert Gray’s Late Ferry is a clear example of personal discoveries allowing for growth on a societal level.

As the persona explores the way in which the harbor, representative of Australian city, functions, they begin to question the integrity of the structure as their descriptions gradually lose clarity. Throughout the poem the depictions of sensory stimuli grow uncertain, as “white lights” are described to be both “feeling about in the blackness” and a “blizzard of light.” By personifying the light and characterizing it to be gradual and uncertain, yet then depicting it as a sudden and disorienting storm, Gray demonstrates the way in which personal discoveries may develop over time, but implies that the discovery itself can lead to uncertainty and subsequent questioning. This concept was also expressed in The Garden Party, in which the central character Laura discovers the lack of distinction between classes on a personal level. This revelation is explored throughout the story as it is said that “for her part, she didn’t feel them. Not a bit, not an atom…” Mansfield’s decision to depict Laura’s realization using short, intercut clauses with repetitive phrases demonstrates the character’s lack of certainty in regards to the issue, despite the high modality. As in Late Ferry, this confusion is representative of the cultural change in her perspective. These discoveries allow their individuals to gain both a deeper understanding of themselves, and a motivation to instigate change in their societies.

Without discoveries, societies would lose their ability to develop, as people wouldn’t begin to question the values held by themselves and those around them. In this way, the new perspectives an individual gains through discoveries are vital in the functioning of an entire culture on a personal and interpersonal level.

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Detrimental Effects of Discovery to Society

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

The discoveries can be transformative for individuals as they develop new ways of viewing themselves and society; however, sometimes broadening one’s understanding can have detrimental effects. Robert Gray and Katherine Mansfield, in their writings, portray how these negative discoveries may cause the persona to reject aspects of a specific lifestyle. Gray encourages his readers to critically examine the world and its immorality by portraying a morally problematic society in his poem Meatworks. Gray further questions society, portraying the negative ramifications of consumer waste throughout his poem Flames and Dangling Wires, informed by Gray’s demythologised interpretation of Buddhism. Similarly Mansfield’s 1922 short story The Garden Party evokes a socially confronting realisation in the persona, causing the reader to question the superficial facets of human existence. Through discoveries individuals learn of their responsibility for the world around them which has a lasting effect on their lives.

Composers portray the transformative effects of discoveries which lead to moral questioning and renewed values. Gray’s poem Meatworks criticises the slaughtering industry, informed by Gray’s practise of vegetarianism. The use of exclusive language separates the persona from the other workers, establishing his morality over “them” as “most of them worked around the slaughtering.” The polysemy of “works around” denotes the workers as being nearby as well as ‘working around’ the morality of animal slaughter. The enjambment with the following line emphasises the word “slaughter,” creating a brutal atmosphere, positioning the reader to reject the meat industry as informed by the Zen Buddhist notion that sentient beings possess a spirit and are worthy of respect. Both Gray and Mansfield convey how personas’ discovery can morally transform the reader as they perceive new ideas. In Mansfield’s short story the optimistic tone created through the child-like diction as the narrator talks of “what happiness it is to be with people who all are happy,” portrays how the reader’s priorities, like Laura’s, may be diverted from serious to more superficial facets of human existence. Laura’s acceptance of the garden party portrays how the mother’s thoughts intrude upon hers, as the lower class are “poor creatures,” not worth “us” cancelling a party for. This binary opposition of class emphasises Laura discovering her own morality, questioning her mother by asking “isn’t it terribly heartless of us?” The first person pronoun encourages the reader to discover a sense of their own morals that exists outside the parameters of their parents, as they discover how sudden realisations may cause a re-evaluation of ideals. Discoveries play an important role in the understanding individuals hold of their society, causing a re-evaluation of one’s own ethics.

Discoveries broaden our understanding of our responsibility for the world and provide hope for societal transformation. Gray, in Flames and Dangling Wires, portrays a new and confronting view of the world to facilitate a discovery in the reader and provide hope for society. The reference to “dangling wires” continues the motif of waste and reinforces the perceptions of cultural decline. The title reference awakens the persona from the decadence of consumerism, resulting in “the dump,” “as a curtain lifting, one time, to a coast of light.” The metaphor of the theatre gives way “one time” to a light, enlightening the reader on the disappearing electromagnetism, carrying away the signal of “Chopin” and the possibility of future enlightenment. This is indicative of the Buddhist enlightenment – understanding the insignificance of humanity in the grand scale of the universe. In Meatworks, Gray continues to depict how the persona’s discoveries influence the reader as they come to terms with the imposition of society on nature. Gray portrays the pigs as sentimental creatures, encouraging the reader to empathise with them and “[feel] but one / not looked at then –” The second person perspective encourages the audience to reject the meatworks, with em-dashes creating a pause as polysemic for the way the audience used to view the world and a sudden infiltration of their thoughts by the final accosting imagery of the pigs “clinging to each other.” This is influenced by Gray’s vegetarianism and his belief in the Buddhist ideals of detachment from desires to receive enlightenment. By broadening the reader’s understanding of their personal values, composers may encourage them to question preconceived ideals.

Whilst discoveries expand our understanding of the world, in some instances these revelations can have negative consequences for individuals. Through Meatworks, Gray builds his criticism of the slaughtering system, depicting how discovery may be a cause of alienation for individuals. The sibilance and olfactory imagery of “sticky stench” that “sent the flies mad” emphasises the sickening image, whilst the imagery of the “flies” continues the sense of revulsion and lexical chain of insects. The exclusive conjunctive opening of the next line “but I settled for one of the lowest-paying jobs” demonstrates the persona’s self exclusion from the other workers, as a difference in values causes them to challenge society. Contrastingly, in Flames and Dangling Wires, Gray evokes a confronting experience as the reader realises their inability to separate themselves from cultural decline. The collective pronoun in “behind us, the city / driven like stakes into the earth” implicates the persona in the actions of human kind. This continues the hellish allusion of “stake” to vampiric legends, implying that “us” is more accusative than confessional, as Gray positions humanity as an imposition on the environment, encouraging the audience to question the role they play in a consumer society. Mansfield similarly portrays how negative individual discoveries provide hope for societal transformation. Laura discovers the neighbour’s death, awakening her from the superiority and insensitivity of a higher class as Laura’s mother explains that “people like that” “don’t expect sacrifices from people like us.” The juxtaposition of “us” and “that” exemplifies the difference in class, as Mansfield invites the reader into discovering the “simply marvellous” meaning of life, which exists outside human superficialities. These negative individual discoveries may impact upon the reader and provide hope for societal transformation; however the persona’s realisations may cause them to reject aspects of their life. Robert Gray, as informed by his demythologised interpretation of Buddhism, encourages individuals to question their values and society in Meatworks and Flames and Dangling Wires. These poems portray how through discovery individuals may come to renewed perceptions of their own values which have a transformative effect on their lives.

Both Gray’s poems and Mansfield’s short story The Garden Party explore how some revelations may have negative effects for individuals; however these negative discoveries may provide hope for societal transformation. It is through discovery that individuals broaden their understanding of their responsibility for the world around them as they establish new ways of viewing society and themselves.

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Anguish Disguise to Happiness in ‘Bliss’

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Sometimes, people have a tendency to disguise their anguish with elements of happiness and constantly tell themselves that they are happy when they truly are not. Bertha Young from Katherine Mansfield’s “Bliss” believed that she was truly happy in her life because she seemed to have everything she needed. However, she comes to the horrible realization that her own blissful relationships are aligned against her happiness, even her own husband, Harry, who has an affair with her mysterious friend, Pearl. Bertha’s feelings of bliss and perfect contentment in her life are in conflict with the harsh reality of the less than favorable incidents within her relationships with Harry, Pearl and even herself – in terms of her symbolic pear tree – and her perceptions of these relationships.

In the beginning of the story, Bertha’s feelings of ‘bliss’ are in conflict with Harry’s actions towards her because she feels a notable distance from him. When Bertha was called to answer the phone, “down she flew” (492) from her feelings of Bliss, no longer as blissful as she was before she got the call from Harry. Bertha was completely content until she got the phone call, and now that she must speak to him, she feels some distance toward him. She wanted to tell him what a great day it was, but she knew he wouldn’t understand: “she’d nothing to say. She only wanted to get in touch with him for a moment” (492). This portrays how she was not in touch with Harry in a blissful way, and she felt a distance from him in this way, holding back her blissful thoughts from him. When hanging up the phone she was “thinking how more than idiotic civilization was” (492) after speaking to Harry because she knew Harry didn’t understand what true bliss was, nor did he share her mutual feelings for it, portraying even more of an emotional distance between them. Another factor in opposition to her bliss is how Bertha “knew how [Harry] loved doing things at high pressure” (495) but she did not know how intense and dangerous Harry liked things until the stories end. His high pressure lifestyle was completely opposite to Bertha, who liked things to be calm, collected and happy. Bertha struggled to connect with Harry emotionally, but she continued to try and stay blissful, regardless of her husband being unable to understand it.

In the middle of the story, Bertha’s connection to Pearl and how she views Pearl negatively affect Bertha’s bliss; Pearl shows signs of a false friendship, cues that Bertha convinced herself were genuine. There were numerous opportunities for Bertha to see deeper into Pearl’s personality, and some were foreshadowed in the story through interactions with other characters. When Harry was noting things he disliked about Pearl, “Bertha wouldn’t agree with him; not yet at any rate” (493). Bertha wanted Harry to like Pearl which would add to Bertha’s bliss, but this disagreement with him foreshadows how Bertha would soon know the truth about Pearl even though she had the ability to see the truth right at that moment when speaking to Harry. Harry had no reason to dislike Pearl, and Bertha could have questioned this further and found out the truth about his true feelings for Pearl. Another opportunity Bertha had to see the truth is when “Miss Fulton did not look at [Bertha]” (495) after she entered Bertha’s home for the dinner party. Avoiding eye contact is seen in many people who have secrets to hide, and this shows how Pearl felt guilty for the things she was doing, for pretending to befriend a woman she was lying to. Pearl didn’t look at Bertha, but Bertha believed this was something Pearl always did, and Bertha convinced herself that there was a reason to hide this evidence of Pearl lying, convinced she should remain blissful regardless of the signs. Lastly, Bertha and Pearl displayed an attachment to each other with little information passed between them, and they gained a deeper connection of who they are to each other: they “stood side by side looking at the slender, flowering tree [and they were] understanding each other perfectly” (497). For Bertha, that tree was a “symbol of her own life” (493), so to have Pearl view that symbol and understand its deeper meaning is to truly connect with Bertha and her feelings. However, Bertha did not ask Pearl how she felt and assumed Pearl’s feelings. Asking Pearl about her connection at this point could have revealed the information Bertha needed to see the truth of the affair. Bertha used this moment of connection to Pearl as a way to remain blissful and oblivious to the affair and convince herself that there was nothing wrong between the two women in their friendship.

At the end of the story, the pear tree is not only a symbol for blissful Bertha’s life, but it is also a symbol for her true self because Bertha’s static lifestyle discourages any feelings other than bliss. Throughout the story, the image of the “tall, slender pear tree” (493) was often used as a symbol for Bertha’s life: a slim, rigid, stagnant lifestyle that did not show evidence of climaxing at any point. Bertha’s relationship with this pear tree showed her an inevitable truth about herself: her life was invariable and because of this, she could do nothing about the drastic changes in her relationships except remain oblivious and blissful. Upon finding out about the affair, instead of getting emotional about learning the truth, Bertha seeks to find meaning within her symbolic tree: “‘Oh, what is going to happen now?’ she cried. But the pear tree was as lovely as ever and as full of flower and as still” (499). Instead of thinking about what she should do about the affair, she looks to her symbolic tree for answers and inadvertently looks into herself to find the truth. The final line of the story proves that Bertha is incapable of change. She sees that the tree has not changed, and since the tree is a symbol for her being, Bertha is unchanging as well. This means that Bertha is incapable of accepting the truth and is unsure of how to handle it, so she constantly ignores the signs and chooses to be blissful.

Bertha, in Mansfield’s narrative, searched for answers in her own way to try to understand the opposing forces to her bliss and the betrayal from Harry, Pearl and within herself through precious tree. Bertha’s bliss was truly anguish in disguise: she was ignoring all the signs of her husband’s betrayals and telling herself to stay blissful despite the evidence she found, even with the bond she and Pearl felt. Bertha’s bliss was a constant cover up, and with each mention of ‘bliss’ in the story came an event that was less than favorable to her happiness. Bertha was truly concealing herself from the truth and letting herself subconsciously believe that all was right in her world; she even trusted in her pear tree to tell her the answers at times. However, trusting in herself and her tree for the answers led to her realizing that she is incapable of change. Sometimes, the blissful world has to be ruined for a person to see the final truths within their lives.

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The Garden Party: Laura’s Interrupted Journey to Womanhood

August 26, 2019 by Essay Writer

The short story “The Garden Party” was penned by Katherine Mansfield, a burgeoning short story writer from New Zealand; this work of fiction was first published in 1922 in The Garden Party and Other Stories. This short story delves into modernity through innovative literary techniques, such as beginning in media res and using third-person over-the-shoulder narration. In doing so, Mansfield makes the time-honored “coming of age tale” new and fresh.

The short story takes place in a small town in New Zealand, where the wealthy Sheridan family lives up on a hill, towering above their less financially well off neighbors. Mansfield’s narrative charts a particularly notable day in the life of Laura Sheridan, which is marked by a phenomenal garden party and a tragic death. Interacting with the lower class catalyzes Laura’s transition from childhood to womanhood. Although the short story has Laura take many steps in the transition to womanhood, she is unable to completely mature into a woman due to her inability to process mortality. The opening paragraph of the Garden Party sets the stage for a coming of age story, by presenting a symbolically powerful setting. The weather was “ideal”, and described as “windless, warm, the sky without a cloud.”, and as “blue veiled with a haze of light gold”. The imagery is bright with vivid colors, and smooth, the rolling alliteration of ‘windless and warm’ guides the reader seamlessly into a moment of blissful weather. The day is also set in “early summer”, which is symbolic of youth. Summer is deeply connected to childhood nostalgia as it is typical for people to have fond memories of sunny summer days. Then there are the roses, which the gardener had been busily arranging since dawn, until the lawn with all its flowers “seemed to shine” and the roses of which there were “Hundreds, yes, literally hundreds.”, were the center piece of attention to anyone approaching the home. These flowers are clearly a yonic symbol, and a beacon of femininity. The combination of the perfect warm weather, the summer season and the enormous quantity of flowers, sets the stage for a coming of age story about a young girl. The pleasant summer weather, also accurately mirrors the personality of the main character Laura.

Laura is a naïve young girl, whose motives throughout the opening of the story are pure, instinctual and childlike in their simplicity. She wants only to be helpful and adult, and to do what she believes is right and good. For instance, in the beginning of the story Laura is the only one who can direct the workers on where to place the Marquee, because her sisters were not dressed appropriately. When she was told to see to the task, she did so and it was described as “Away Laura flew, still holding her piece of bread-and-butter.” This wording of this sentence is significant, especially the word ‘flew’, because it adds flight imagery to the moment. The imagery of flight adds immediacy to the action and shows Laura’s youthful enthusiasm. This enthusiasm, which is also emphasized by the fact that she did not even wait to finish her bread inside, is a major aspect of Laura’s characterization as a youth. These short moments are very important to the short story because they are all we see of her a child, before the story pivotal moments that mark her transition to womanhood. The innovative literary techniques used throughout the story also highlight Laura’s transition to womanhood.

The short story begins in media res and this is significant because it signals that Laura is in the middle of her life. The short story would have been a completely different feeling if we had had seen Laura from birth to the moment of the transition to adulthood, and it would have been a less dramatic transition. The decision to start in the middle also emphasized the importance of the specific day. The decision to use 3rd person over the shoulder narration also adds to the The interaction that Laura has with her the working men setting up the Marquee is a major turning point in the short story and in Laura’s life because it shows her striving to take on the responsibilities of an adult. When she goes outside she speaks to the men in a specific tone of voice, “copying her mother’s voice”, which indicates that she is striving to act like an adult by imitating her mother. However, when this she realizes this tone of voice does not suit her, she “stammers like a little girl”, reflecting how new she is to behaving like an adult, and how she rides the line between youth and maturity. Later on she in the interaction, Laura reflects on what is appropriate to discuss, thinking “What a beautiful morning! She mustn’t which shows her taking on an adult attitude. This interaction is also significant because it represents Laura’s sexual awakening, and shows her maturing into a woman. Then Laura observes the demeanor of the men and she delights in their appearance and behavior, from the man’s “nice eyes, … small, but such a dark blue” to all of their kind smiles which seemed to her to say “‘Cheer up, we won’t bite.” Her attraction to the men is undeniable, and she refers to them as “very nice workmen” repeatedly. The men represent the epitome of masculinity. For one, they are manual laborers, and they work with their hands and bodies in an archetypically masculine role, to be the provider and the laborer. There is also a distinct contrast between the upper class and lower class men, that has to do with their perceived masculinity. Often, upper class men are regarded as effeminate because of their distance from manual labor, and also for their fanciful dress and intellectual nature, which contrasts the singularity of macho masculinity. Laura notices this in a subconscious way, reflecting “Why couldn’t she have workmen for friends rather than the silly boys she danced with and who came to Sunday night supper?”. Those “silly boys” are more effeminate and immature in her mind, whereas the workmen are mature and manly, and thus more attractive. In this moment where she feels the attraction to them, in contrast with the lack of attraction to the upper class boys, her sexuality awakens and she begins the transition to womanhood.

The next significant event in the short story to Laura’s maturation, is the tragic death of Mr. Scott, who was only a passing acquaintance, but whose death deeply affected Laura and made her consider her moral compass in relation to the societal norms of the upper class. Immediately, Laura feels as though it would be insensitive of her family to continue with festivities in light of the death, since the deceased and his family live so close to their home. The death puts Laura at odds with the attitude of high society, as vocalized by her older sister and mother. Both her mother and sister were not as bothered by the death of a lower class individual and feel that it is perfectly appropriate to commence with the party activities. Also, they both invalidated her perspective and told her that she was reacting in excess of what the situation called for. Jose expressed this opinion, saying “‘Stop the garden absurd. Of course we can’t do anything of the kind. Nobody expects us to. Don’t be so extravagant.’” Her mother rationalized the situation, saying “But, my dear child, use your common sense. It’s only by accident we’ve heard of it. If someone had died there normally … we should still be having our party” Here, Laura is forced to grapple with a very adult situation, one that requires maturity; her response is downplayed. The resulting inner turmoil is Laura’s first introduction to the complexities of adulthood, and to the realization that nothing lacks nuance. However, she represses this realization until later by deluding herself into believing her family’s perspective on the situation. (Repression is arguably adult coping mechanism). This action is made easier by a hat that her mother gives her, with beautiful golden daisies on it. The moment is described as, “the first thing she saw was this charming girl in the mirror, in her black hat trimmed with gold daisies, and a long black velvet ribbon.” The hat represents the socialite role she has been raised to fulfill. The gold is a symbol for wealth, and the daisy a symbol of femininity. When she sees herself in the hat, she sees the illusion of adulthood. The capacity to repress her moral compass to act in accordance to social norms is not a permanent solution. Her struggle to reconcile her moral compass and the unfair social trappings of high society life, is a major component in her process of maturing toward adulthood.

However, Laura never fully reconciles her views nor embraces a social attitude, and this represents the shift from the singularity of a childlike focus to the complex web of contradictions that plague the adult mind. When Laura sees the dead man she describes him as “sleeping so soundly, so deeply, that he was far, far away from them both. Oh, so remote, so peaceful. He was dreaming.” Since, Laura is not able to fully process the death of the old man she is unable to face mortality and to deal with the complexity of adulthood. Instead, she reverts to a childlike interpretation of the death, denies its complexity of the situation and the permanence the event on her psyche. There is perverted Garden of Eden imagery throughout the story which mirrors and foreshadows Laura’s inability to reach adulthood, by implying she will not be able to eat from the tree of knowledge and thus not be able to leave the infantile state of Eve before she and Adam ate the fruit. In the scene where she is directing the workmen on the placement of the Marquee, they block the view of the karaka trees, which is described thus: “Then the karaka trees would be hidden. And they were so lovely, with their broad, gleaming leaves, and their clusters of yellow fruit. They were like trees you imagined growing on a desert island, proud, solitary, lifting their leaves and fruits to the sun in a kind of silent splendor.” Here, we see Laura acknowledge a beautiful tree with tempting fruit, but it is hidden by a tent and thus she forgets the temptation. The isolation of the Sheridan’s home, above the less financially well off members of society, adds to the Eden imagery, and even though Laura is able to leave her home and see the family of the dead man, she is too overwhelmed to deal with the information. In the short story, there are many powerful symbols that indicate Laura is making the transition from childhood to womanhood, and reading the story on a cursory level it appears that she fully transitions to adulthood based on the many steps she takes in that direction. However, her transition is interrupted by her inability to process death and it is symbolically foreshadowed by her inability to access the knowledge from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, Laura is not able to fully become a woman.

In the short story, there are many powerful symbols that indicate that Laura is making the transition from childhood to womanhood; for a person reading the story on a cursory level, it appears that she fully transitions to adulthood based on the many steps she takes in that direction. However, her transition is interrupted by her inability to process death and is symbolically foreshadowed by her inability to access the knowledge from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, Laura is not able to fully become a woman. She is instead stuck in a position of grappling with the complex components of adulthood without reaching a point of resolution.

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Discoveries That Broaden Understanding: Katherine Mansfield and Robert Gray

July 18, 2019 by Essay Writer

The discoveries can be transformative for individuals as they develop new ways of viewing themselves and society; however, sometimes broadening one’s understanding can have detrimental effects. Robert Gray and Katherine Mansfield, in their writings, portray how these negative discoveries may cause the persona to reject aspects of a specific lifestyle. Gray encourages his readers to critically examine the world and its immorality by portraying a morally problematic society in his poem Meatworks. Gray further questions society, portraying the negative ramifications of consumer waste throughout his poem Flames and Dangling Wires, informed by Gray’s demythologised interpretation of Buddhism. Similarly Mansfield’s 1922 short story The Garden Party evokes a socially confronting realisation in the persona, causing the reader to question the superficial facets of human existence. Through discoveries individuals learn of their responsibility for the world around them which has a lasting effect on their lives.

Composers portray the transformative effects of discoveries which lead to moral questioning and renewed values. Gray’s poem Meatworks criticises the slaughtering industry, informed by Gray’s practise of vegetarianism. The use of exclusive language separates the persona from the other workers, establishing his morality over “them” as “most of them worked around the slaughtering.” The polysemy of “works around” denotes the workers as being nearby as well as ‘working around’ the morality of animal slaughter. The enjambment with the following line emphasises the word “slaughter,” creating a brutal atmosphere, positioning the reader to reject the meat industry as informed by the Zen Buddhist notion that sentient beings possess a spirit and are worthy of respect. Both Gray and Mansfield convey how personas’ discovery can morally transform the reader as they perceive new ideas. In Mansfield’s short story the optimistic tone created through the child-like diction as the narrator talks of “what happiness it is to be with people who all are happy,” portrays how the reader’s priorities, like Laura’s, may be diverted from serious to more superficial facets of human existence. Laura’s acceptance of the garden party portrays how the mother’s thoughts intrude upon hers, as the lower class are “poor creatures,” not worth “us” cancelling a party for. This binary opposition of class emphasises Laura discovering her own morality, questioning her mother by asking “isn’t it terribly heartless of us?” The first person pronoun encourages the reader to discover a sense of their own morals that exists outside the parameters of their parents, as they discover how sudden realisations may cause a re-evaluation of ideals. Discoveries play an important role in the understanding individuals hold of their society, causing a re-evaluation of one’s own ethics.

Discoveries broaden our understanding of our responsibility for the world and provide hope for societal transformation. Gray, in Flames and Dangling Wires, portrays a new and confronting view of the world to facilitate a discovery in the reader and provide hope for society. The reference to “dangling wires” continues the motif of waste and reinforces the perceptions of cultural decline. The title reference awakens the persona from the decadence of consumerism, resulting in “the dump,” “as a curtain lifting, one time, to a coast of light.” The metaphor of the theatre gives way “one time” to a light, enlightening the reader on the disappearing electromagnetism, carrying away the signal of “Chopin” and the possibility of future enlightenment. This is indicative of the Buddhist enlightenment – understanding the insignificance of humanity in the grand scale of the universe. In Meatworks, Gray continues to depict how the persona’s discoveries influence the reader as they come to terms with the imposition of society on nature. Gray portrays the pigs as sentimental creatures, encouraging the reader to empathise with them and “[feel] but one / not looked at then –” The second person perspective encourages the audience to reject the meatworks, with em-dashes creating a pause as polysemic for the way the audience used to view the world and a sudden infiltration of their thoughts by the final accosting imagery of the pigs “clinging to each other.” This is influenced by Gray’s vegetarianism and his belief in the Buddhist ideals of detachment from desires to receive enlightenment. By broadening the reader’s understanding of their personal values, composers may encourage them to question preconceived ideals.

Whilst discoveries expand our understanding of the world, in some instances these revelations can have negative consequences for individuals. Through Meatworks, Gray builds his criticism of the slaughtering system, depicting how discovery may be a cause of alienation for individuals. The sibilance and olfactory imagery of “sticky stench” that “sent the flies mad” emphasises the sickening image, whilst the imagery of the “flies” continues the sense of revulsion and lexical chain of insects. The exclusive conjunctive opening of the next line “but I settled for one of the lowest-paying jobs” demonstrates the persona’s self exclusion from the other workers, as a difference in values causes them to challenge society. Contrastingly, in Flames and Dangling Wires, Gray evokes a confronting experience as the reader realises their inability to separate themselves from cultural decline. The collective pronoun in “behind us, the city / driven like stakes into the earth” implicates the persona in the actions of human kind. This continues the hellish allusion of “stake” to vampiric legends, implying that “us” is more accusative than confessional, as Gray positions humanity as an imposition on the environment, encouraging the audience to question the role they play in a consumer society. Mansfield similarly portrays how negative individual discoveries provide hope for societal transformation. Laura discovers the neighbour’s death, awakening her from the superiority and insensitivity of a higher class as Laura’s mother explains that “people like that” “don’t expect sacrifices from people like us.” The juxtaposition of “us” and “that” exemplifies the difference in class, as Mansfield invites the reader into discovering the “simply marvellous” meaning of life, which exists outside human superficialities. These negative individual discoveries may impact upon the reader and provide hope for societal transformation; however the persona’s realisations may cause them to reject aspects of their life. Robert Gray, as informed by his demythologised interpretation of Buddhism, encourages individuals to question their values and society in Meatworks and Flames and Dangling Wires. These poems portray how through discovery individuals may come to renewed perceptions of their own values which have a transformative effect on their lives.

Both Gray’s poems and Mansfield’s short story The Garden Party explore how some revelations may have negative effects for individuals; however these negative discoveries may provide hope for societal transformation. It is through discovery that individuals broaden their understanding of their responsibility for the world around them as they establish new ways of viewing society and themselves.

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“The Daughters of the Late Colonel” as a Modernist Work

April 17, 2019 by Essay Writer

During the Modern period, writers were concerned with “making it new.” People had been disillusioned, largely due to the devastation of the First World War, and they were fed up with the hypocrisy of Victorian society. People’s way of looking at themselves and society had changed; they wanted address the issues that Victorians ignored, and ameliorate society. Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” is undoubtedly a Modernist short story. The characteristics it possesses in both form and content restrict it from belonging to any earlier literary period. The very fact that the author, Katherine Mansfield, is writing shows that this short story belongs to the Modernist period. In the past, writers have traditionally been upper-class, white males from central European cities (namely London). Mansfield, however, is an average middle-class woman from the colonies (New Zealand). Mansfield did not have to write under a man’s name in order to be successful. Had this story been written in an earlier period, it would not have been taken seriously unless it was thought to have been written by a man. With the Modern Period came the emergence of feminism. By the 1920s, most women had the vote; but they were still fighting for equality. Writing allowed women to prove they were equal to men. It also gave women a voice, proving they had a point of view and that it was worth listening to. This is a new development that was not achieved until Modernist times.Although this is a Modern story, written by a Modernist writer, the main characters, Constantia and Josephine are not Modern women. At the beginning of the story the way they behave makes them appear to be little girls, it is only later that we find out that they’re actually quite a bit older. This is because they have had arrested development. Under the strict tyranny of their father, they have been trained like soldiers to serve him, and stay out of his way. They see themselves with a tremendous amount of guilt as extra expenses. They have been infantilized, because everyone expects they’ll just get married and their husbands will provide for them. The Colonel symbolizes Victorian society. Now that he is dead, the girls have the freedom to do what they want. However, because of the way they have been raised, Victorianism is so ingrained in them that they do not know how to express anything different. In their father’s room, everything is covered in white sheets, representing the false fronts, or hypocrisy of Victorian society. When Josephine pulls up the blind, it “flew up and the cord flew after, rolling round the blind-stick, and the little tassel tapped as if trying to get free (326).” It is trying to get free from the confinements of the Victorian period. Constantia and Josephine subconsciously wish to be free too, but they must first realize that they have been prisoners. The girls are afraid to open anything because they know it will bring about major changes, and really just want to leave everything as is. Likewise, by the end of the story, the girls have not made any progress in their own lives. As Constantia’s name suggests, the girls are constant in their ways. They are afraid that their father will be angry that they have buried him; but these girls have been buried all their lives. This short story represents a precipice, after the Victorian period, and just at the very beginning of the Modern period, where there is still so much potential. The girls reach the edge of this precipice when the organ grinder comes around and the sun comes out, like a visual representation of their “light-bulb moment.” The epiphany is unfortunately lost in all their civilities of who will speak first; but it does present possibilities for the future. This strong symbolism/ abstraction is another aspect of the story that situates it in the Modern period. In previous periods, literary works tended to have literal meanings that were clear and easy to understand. Constantia and Josephine are not Modern women; but neither are they heroines. They are more like antiheros, seeming to be inadequate in many ways. They have not had the opportunity to do anything heroic because Modernists believed those opportunities are rare in real life. This goes along with the “No more parades” attitude that ensued after WWI. There are no words like “Glory,” “Noble,” “Honour,” or “Heroic” used in this narrative, whereas in earlier periods, these were common words. Modernists were sick of hypocrisy. They wanted everything swept out from under the carpet, so there could be no false fronts; everything was presented as it was. Although these girls seem inadequate, the Modernists believed that it was a more realistic picture, therefore a better one.Instead of finding comfort in religion at the time of their father’s death, when Mr. Farolles comes to visit, they describe the scene as “awkward.” The Victorians, and even more so, the Romantics had strong faith in God. It is only in Modern times that we get the feeling that “God is dead.” When Mr. Farolles asks the girls if they would like to take communion, they liken it to sitting “in torture.” Communion is one of the most important and revered aspects of the church, and to refer to it as torture would have been heresy in previous periods! The lack of respect for God goes along with the lack of respect for authority that ensued after the First World War. Not only do the girls not have God, but they also don’t have anyone else- they are alienated. As ‘old spinsters’ they do not see any prospect for marriage, but neither do they see any other way of life. As unmarried women they feel like they do not fit in with the rest of society. For Modernists, however, this was inevitable, something everyone experiences. It showed that they were not in sync with everyone else, they were individuals. In Victorian times, fitting in was one of people’s main concerns. The fact that these girls are alienated from the rest of society and do not have faith in God shows this to be a Modernist work.Another aspect that helps to situate this literary work in the Modernist period is the meaninglessness in conversations. If you look closely to what characters are saying, very little of it is actually of any importance. In one instance, the girls are discussing Cyril, and how he was not able to come for their father’s funeral. Josephine says how it would have been nice if he could have come, and Connie replies “’and he would have enjoyed it so,” not thinking what she was saying (328).” Of course Cyril would not have enjoyed a funeral; this reply is just thoughtless nonsense. The “not thinking what she was saying” part is the key, this conversation really doesn’t matter to her; she is only half listening. This is because Modernists believed that a large part of life was meaningless. In earlier writing, conversations were flawless. Someone would ask a question, and the other person would have a flawless answer, almost as if it was planned. The Modernists were concerned with things being more realistic, so by including meaninglessness in conversations, they are helping to make it so.Naturalism is another literary device that was not used before the Modern period. It was employed in an attempt to make things seem more realistic, closer to what they’d be like in real life. For example, instead of just saying the girls went into their father’s room, it breaks the action down, talking of Josephine “grasping the door- handle and doing her best to turn it.” Nurse Andrew’s speech is another form of Naturalism used in this story. Not everyone speaks perfect English in real life, so by making Nurse Andrews pronounce words like “buttah (323)” and “bittah (342)” it makes her speech seem more natural. Prior to the Modern period, characters would often have perfect English, and even speak with perfect rhythm. This short story is also blatantly Modern in terms of its structure. This story is told from multiple points of view. Perspectives from Connie, Josephine and Cyril are all presented. The difference in perspectives, especially between the perspective of Cyril and his Aunts is very interesting. Cyril makes everything seem so childish and ridiculous, he also makes his Aunts seem much older and more naive. The difference in perspectives reminds us that the narrator is not always reliable, and that different people can have different points of view. Prior to the Modernist period, the main type of narration was the Omniscient narrator, who was all-knowing. In Modern times, this type of narration was seen as completely unrealistic. Not only does the narration have multiple points of view, but it is also non-linear. In pre-Modern times, stories were told from start to finish with no jumping around; but this story contains memories and flashbacks from other periods in the girl’s lives. Overall, the many Modernist elements in this short story prove that it could not have been written in any period but the Modern. The female author, the lack of hero, the abstraction and symbolism, lack of respect for God/authority, alienation, Naturalism, the meaninglessness, the multiple narrators and the non-linearity are all devices that were not employed in earlier periods. Some works, especially ones written during a transitional phase, can have elements of more than one period; but Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” is definitely Modern.Works CitedMansfield, Katherine. “The Daughters of the Late Colonel.” The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. Ed. S. Gilbert, S. Gubar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 2004. Print.

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Marxism in Mansfield

January 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Katherine Mansfield’s “The Garden-Party”, the socioeconomically-derived false consciousness discussed by Michael Bell in “The Metaphysics of Modernism” initially blinds the protagonist Laura from viewing the world in any context outside of her household. While the story’s pivotal actions do not change Laura’s physical existence and setting, they drastically alter her metaphysical social awareness in such a way that the depth of her “awakening” underscores the extent to which her social context initially shielded her perception of the world.Immediately, Katherine Mansfield paints an almost painfully idealized image of a garden party: the weather is flawless, the lawn is trimmed to perfection, the flowers and plants are blooming with an almost divine beauty. Extrapolation sets the story in some sort of socially-advantaged household, where the extent of the children’s worries stretches no further than the problem of locating an optimal setting for a marquee. The almost absurd nature of this idealized setting gives the reader the impression that this Modernist story is, in fact, accenting the ignorance of the family in question. This is a point that Bell emphasizes in his discussion of Marxist appearances in modernism: “Marx had analyzed the external realm of social and economic process and laid bare the ‘false consciousness’ by which the advantaged classes unwittingly rationalized their own condition” (Bell 9). Indeed, Laura initially seems to regard social class as a prerequisite for casual conversation, as her reaction to the Bourgeoisie workman’s informal conversation would suggest: “Laura’s upbringing made her wonder for a moment whether it was quite respectful of a workman to talk to her of bangs slap in the eye” (Mansfield 853). As the conversation continues, Mansfield maintains the socioeconomic distinction between Laura and the workmen, but simultaneously allows Laura’s esteem for the workmen and their alien nature to slowly elevate her perception of the world outside of her social class.The subsequent change in Laura’s social perception seems to exemplify Bell’s contention regarding the Marxist hermeneutic of a human life: It is not just that external appearances, and the commonsensical or rational means of understanding them, are limited and fallible. It is that such appearances and reasoning may be actively disguising contrary truths to which, by definition, there is no other access. (Bell 10)An important aspect of Laura’s experience with the workmen is that her exposure to their informality leaves her lighthearted; her only frustration stems from the fact that she doesn’t “have workmen for friends rather than the silly boys she danced with and who came to Sunday night supper” (Mansfield 854). Bell’s commentary suggests that Laura’s interactions may have challenged the paradigm inherent in her social class: “modernist literature is often concerned with the question of how to live within a new context of thought, or a new worldview” (Bell 10). Shortly thereafter, Mansfield juxtaposes a new situation that forces Laura to defend her blossoming social perceptions.While Laura’s family is somewhat unresponsive to the news that a man from the infamous alley across the street has died, the evidence of Laura’s interaction with the workmen from earlier that day quickly manifests itself. She sees something as serious as death as legitimate grounds for canceling the party, out of sensitivity for the family. She notes that her family does not view the death as an important event: as her mother coldly explains, “People like that don’t expect sacrifices from us” (Mansfield 859). The obvious distinction between these two reactions highlights Laura’s novel perceptions in a new contextual world, while underscoring her family’s preference for Marx’s “false consciousness” (explained vicariously through Bell). In order to fortify Laura’s “awakening”, Mansfield has Laura visit the family of the deceased man. The readers, and likely Laura’s family, expect Laura to feel uncomfortable in this foreign setting, particularly considering her reason for visiting. Of course, Laura does initially feel uncomfortable: her hat, which had garnered her a plethora of complements at an earlier party, suddenly seems ridiculous and socially burdensome. However, upon beholding the “young man, fast asleep” (Mansfield 862), the depth of Laura’s change in perception becomes evident. She asks Em’s sister to forgive her hat, but in fact she seems to be asking forgiveness for the ignorance of her social origin. Laura has evidently answered Bell’s question regarding metaphysical self-perception, but her brother Laurie, who sees melancholy in her tears instead of marvel, demonstrates the continuation of her family’s false consciousness.Continuing his discussion of modernity, Bell cites Martin Heidegger’s contention that “the fact that the world becomes a picture at all is what distinguishes the essence of the modern age” (qtd. in Bell 12). The most important transition in Mansfield’s “The Garden-Party” is Laura’s ability to change from seeing the world physically to considering the world metaphysically; she can now see herself not only in first-person perspective, but also as a contextual object from a third space. Consequently, Mansfield herself seems to complement modernity’s overarching search not only for answers, but for new methods for considering existentialist questions.

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