The Garden Party
Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party: Illustration of Social and Economic Classes
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.
Hat as a Key Symbol in Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party
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.
Personal Perspective on the Society
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.
The Garden Party: Laura’s Interrupted Journey to Womanhood
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.
“The Daughters of the Late Colonel” as a Modernist Work
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.