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Commentary on the Garden Party

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As the story begins, Laura's upper class family is holding a garden party. We watch the interaction between her family and the servants and other working people as they prepare for the party; we see how their world is carefully ordered ("The gardener had been up since dawn, mowing the lawns and sweeping them, until the grass and the dark flat rosettes where the daisy plants had been seemed to shine.") When a group of workmen come to set up a marquee for the party, Laura finds herself drawn to them, and it showed how giddy Laura is ("Oh, how extraordinarily nice workmen were, she thought. ...read more.


The story darkens when we learn that a young working man who lives nearby in a small cottage with his wife and five children has been killed in an accident (a tumble from a horse). Laura's first impulse: the garden party must be cancelled. Her sister, Jose, is surprised at the idea. "Stop the garden-party? My dear Laura, don't be so absurd. Of course we can't do anything of the kind. Nobody expects us to. Don't be so extravagant." "But we can't possibly have a garden-party with a man dead just outside the front gate." ...read more.


To Laura's disappointment, once at the cottage she sees the body of the dead man. Yet her reaction to the body surprises her: "...He was wonderful, beautiful. While they were laughing and while the band was playing, this marvel had come to the lane. Happy . . . happy . . . All is well, said that sleeping face. This is just as it should be. I am content." Laura has found death to be quite different from what she expected. When her brother meets her outside the cottage and asks "Was it awful?", Laura struggles to express her feelings in words, unable to fully explain what she has experienced. That is where Mansfield ends the story. ...read more.

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