By Katherine Mansfield
The protagonist of the story is Laura who is a person of high ideals and empathy. Laura’s family
includes her morally shallow mother, Mrs. Sheridan, her nagging sister, Jose, her self-indulgent
father, and her brother, Laurie, who is compassionate like Laura.
The DAY OF THE PARTY
The story begins with Laura's mother throwing a party. The scene at her house is filled with
frantic preparations under the warm summer Sun. Laura is bemused by the actions of the workers
at the Party and struggles to understand their common ways.
On the same day, Laura’s neighbor, a young cart driver, dies. His name was Scott and left behind
a wife and five children. When Laura hears the sad news she empathizes with the grieving family
and insists on cancelling the party. She is aggrieved at the thought the family’s plight and thinks
that hearing the loud music of her party would be disrespectful to their loss.
First, Laura goes to her sister, who is bitter to hostile with Laura for wanting to cancel the party
because it would not bring him back to life. Jose has a low opinion and hostile attitude toward
people from working or lower class. Next Laura turns to her mother, Mrs. Sheridan reacts similar
to Jose and hands Laura a black hat for the party. Laura is distracted by the beauty of hat and
drops the idea of cancelling the party.
The party goes as planned and Laura is the centre of everybody’s attention. Everything was
going smoothly until, on Mr. Sheridan mention, Laura is reminded of the accidental death of her
neighbor. Mrs. Sheridan asks an anxious Laura to take the leftovers over to the worker’s widow.
She convinces Laura to go in her party attire only.
VISIT TO THE MOURNING FAMILY
Laura reaches the nearby cottages of the laborers. The squalid ambience is completely opposite
to the cheerful and celebratory mood of her house. It is gloomy and somber. Laura thinks to drop
the food off and leave immediately as she feels she is dressed inappropriately. But the widow’s
sister asks her to stay.
After meeting the widow, Laura goes to see the deceased laborer. She finds him peaceful and
graceful. She has a moment of epiphany. He seems like he is sleeping with heart’s content.
Laura feels embarrassed by her dress and presumptive attitude and seeks forgiveness from the
mourning family. She is overpowered by her emotions and leaves instantly.
LAURA FINDS PERSPECTIVE
As she is living the laborer’s cottage, she runs into her brother, Laurie. He comforts her as she
breaks into tears of joy after her eye opening experience. Laura can only muster “Isn’t life” and
Laurie responds with, “Isn’t it, darling?”
They both understood that there is more to the world and true living than silly garden parties and
pleasures of grand lifestyle.
The central theme of “The Garden Party” is the difference between innocence and greed,
between vanity and reality. The veil of our desires and dreams can cloud our perception of
reality. Laura goes through the experience of meeting a family in mourning and realizes the
futility of superficial living and lavish garden parties.
Her firsthand contact with the suffering of others encapsulates many of the issues that billions of
people are still struggling with worldwide.