In Katherine Mansfield’s “The Garden Party” and in D.H. Lawrence’s “Odour of Chrysanthemums,” two women were in a situation where death was literally at their feet. In “The Garden Party,” Laura finds herself contemplating the dead body of Mr. Scott, a man of lower class who lived at the bottom of the hill from her house. In “Odour of Chrysanthemums,” Elizabeth finds herself contemplating the dead body of her husband, Walter. Although the relationships these women shared with the dead men were completely opposite, they both had striking similarities in the ways that they handled the situation. Both women ignored the feelings of the families of the deceased, failed to refer to the deceased by name, felt shame in the presence of the deceased and both had a life and death epiphany. Although Laura and Elizabeth were in two similar yet very different situations, they both had contemplated the dead men, acted in similar ways, felt similar emotions and both ended up having an epiphany regarding life and death at the end of the story.
No real concern was shown in either story for family members of the dead. In fact the only concern shown by Laura and Elizabeth was only concern for themselves. In “The Garden Party,” Laura did not once show any consideration for Mr. Scott’s family. Even in the presence of the widow and her sister, Laura never mentioned anything about feeling sorry for them about their loss. The most concern shown for Mr. Scott’s family was before a party that her family was throwing when she questioned, “what the band would sound like to that poor woman” (Mansfield 2429). Laura also never showed concern for Mr. Scott’s children. Her reference to Mr. Scott’s wife and children as the “poor woman and those little children” (Mansfield 2430), was the only sympathy the widow and her family received from her. Laura seemed only concerned with how “terribly nervous” she was and that she was being watched with “staring eyes” (Mansfield 2432). She didn’t even acknowledge that Mr. Scott had a family that was suffering. Elizabeth, in “Odour of Chrysanthemums,” lacked the same condolence. Unlike Laura, this was her own family she lacked sympathy for. She never expressed any responsibilty about how her children were going to handle the loss of their father. At the end of the story is the only time Elizabeth expressed concern for her children ...
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..., but Laura saw a beauty in death which helped her to see the beauty of life. Elizabeth realized the frightening possibility that life was just an immediate placement and that her reality resided in death.
Even though Laura and Elizabeth were uncompassionate towards the families, failed to call the deceased by their names, felt shame and had a life and death epiphany, both women had different stances and reasons concerning their actions. The relationship and the personal or social difference that Laura and Elizabeth shared with the dead men were all factors in how they acted, reacted and lastly how these affected the epiphany that the two women experienced throughout and at the end of these stories.
Lawrence, D.H. “The Odour of Chrysanthemums.” The Norton Anthology of English
Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 2000.
Mansfield, Katherine. “The Garden Party.” The Norton Anthology of English
Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 2000.
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