The Theme of Death in The Garden Party

Good Essays
The Theme of Death in The Garden Party

Katherine Mansfield explores profoundly the world of death and its impact on a person in her short story, "The Garden Party."

Enter the Sheridans, a wealthy, high-class family who live in England. They are your everyday rich snobs who think themselves better than the common person. There is, however, one person who is quite unlike her family, and that is Laura Sheridan.

Laura started off in a bubble, and has lived in it all her life. She has been protected from the real world, so she has never experienced the effects of betrayal, poverty, or labor, let alone death, which she does get to experience, by the end of the story. Laura meets face to face with death, and the results of it will change her look on life forever. It is a wonder she ever had a chance to be a caring, sensitive person with a sibling like Jose. Jose is an unfeeling, heartless and self-absorbed person who is completely clueless to those around her who don’t have lots of money or expensive assets. She sings songs with mock passion:

This life is wee-ary

A Tear – a sigh

A Love that Chan-ges

This Life is wee-ary

A Tear – a sigh

A Love that chan-ges

And then…good bye!

This is the song that Jose sings before the garden party is held. It’s ironic how she can sing a song about life being weary, a tear-a sigh when she cannot-could not, even remotely relate to ever being in the position of being weary. She is singing about something that she doesn’t understand, something she can’t feel. She can’t sing it with any real compassion, because she has none. This shows when she breaks into a brilliant smile at the end of the song, which is supposed to be full of sadness. This is what gives the effect of...

... middle of paper ...

... She knows her hat is grossly inappropriate. It brags to these poor people that she is wealthy and they are not. It is a party hat, but also it is everything Laura was. It represents her narrow-minded upbringing, such as the way she was taught to treat others of "lower class" and it represents a person who doesn’t care much for the well being of others. "Forgive my hat" is truly the heart of this story.

When Laura sobs, "Isn’t life, isn’t life-" she is trying to explain how she feels now about life, how the experience of seeing the dead affected her. She can’t put it into words though, because it was a feeling that she experienced-an understanding. It could be concluded that she had the words all along, only she had them mixed up. What Laura was really trying to say, is "life isn’t." That is the effect Mansfield wished to create, and she succeeded beautifully at it.
Get Access