The Garden Party: The Struggles of Decreased Self-Confidence

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During the story there is an uncertainty about the protagonist at the end. You as the reader are unsure what kind of change the character has gone through, positive or negative? In “The Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield the character Laura is the protagonist of the story, but there isn't a clear shift in either direction in its conclusion. Throughout the story she is she cares for the lower class, but you are able to foresee that she won't develop a change from the rest of the Sheridans. The character is not strong enough to be able to fight against or defy the social obligations of the class prejudices. Laure does not appear to have any anguish against those in the lower class eventually it is predictable she will turn out to be just like the other Sheridan, who are only concerned with themselves. There are many instances of Laura's’ attempts to overcome the class discriminations but unfortunately seems to fail and return right back to them. For example when she meets the workers, she has kind thoughts and says “How very nice workmen were.”, to herself. Laura does not show any poor intentions and in fact it seems she's the Sheridan that even gets along with a lower class. With that said it's easy to overlook the fact that no matter what there is prejudice within her thoughts. Though they may not be obvious, it is the way she grew up ( the way they all grew up ) and everything stems from those beliefs. She does not provide much thought into judging the workers, and it could even be argued she made such a quick judgement of kindness out of sympathy. She has yet another encounter with a worker smelling lavender and is curious why he was “caring for things like that-caring for the smell oflavenders.”Laura does not want to mirror the actions and thoughts or sister and mother ( selfish like everyone else ) but she is living a very sheltered life and from the writing appears to possess the innocence of a child. She is unaware of her own situation and has never thought about where her views and knowledge stem from, or taken into account her minimal experiences.

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These quick judgments made about the workers show how bad Laura wishes to be the accepting Sheridan and may even will herself to, but is still confined by the ideas shes been known too.Another example of Laura’s innocence or nieve traits is while she was standing in the garden after speaking to the workers. She took “a big bite of her bread-and-butter as she stared at the drawing. She felt just like a work-girl.” This is an example because the character says this while in her fine clothes at her high dollar house, and somehow thinks she can relate to the workers after she has only had bread and butter. This is a blatant example of a lack of knowledge as well. She has no idea what is all implied by that statement. The phone then rings and Laura is snapped back into her privileged life “she skimmed, over the lawn, up the path, up the steps, across the veranda, and into the porch.” The language used to describe this walk, specifically skim creates a upbeat tone. This reflects a lot about the character, after just having thought she'd experienced a workers life Laura happily jets home like any other time. She is immediately back to her life and has lost all thought and concern for the workers. The entire situation gives a tone of immaturity and incompatibility. When Laura finds out that a man has died in her neighborhood, she is frustrated that no one else agrees to end the party. She goes to her mother forhelp. This is an example of Laura’s sympathy. “Mother, isn’t it terribly heartless of us?” Her mother makes no reply and changes topics.

She places a hat on Laura's head. The hat is thesymbol of privilege. It shows that Laura is just like her mother. It used to belong to her mother, but she is giving it to Laura. Laura putting on the hat is her accepting her lifestyle that she's always had and will remain to enjoy. The hat is what they've always had, and what they’ll carry on. This hat ties Laura to her family showing there is no real difference between naive and prejudice. Laura not putting up a fight with her mother is also a sign of weakness in her struggle. While she might care she doesn't care enough for any real difference. Her mind so easily changes and she says to herself “Is mother right? She thought. And now shehoped her mother was right.” This proves that she will turn out like her family. Her will isn't strong enough to withstand her roots. For a moment she goes back to thinking of the family that lost their father, but it just seems “blurred, unreal, like a picture in a newspaper” sheshrugs it off. The character can so easily move on with her day. She developed no emotional connection to the victims family. It was a bypassing thought which is now gone. She sees her brother and is about to also tell him she wants to cancel theparty, but she decides not to mention it after all. Laura wanted to help the family of the man but she was swayed to to others sides by a hat. At the end of the party the family is together, and Mrs. Sheridan says theyBring leftovers to the Scott’s to show their condolences. Laura then speaks up andsays, “But, mother, do you really think it’s a good idea?” Laura feels it would beinappropriate and wrong to deliver this gift to the family at this time. She is able to put herself in their shoes and see it is not a good idea, but once again Laura cannotbe strong enough to hold her opinion. Her mother has her to take the basket to thehouse.

When Laura walks to the house she is uncomfortable and thinks thateveryone is staring at her. She wants to leave the house right away, but is urged to come in. Laura might have a shift for the good, but then she sees the body of Mr. Scott and is amazed at how happy and peaceful he looks. She says “what did garden parties and baskets and lace frocks matter to him” signifying she might be realizing the obsolete and emptiness of her life of privilege. This is a moment where she realizes other things are more important than materialistic matters and are bigger than yourself. In this moment Laura gains critical life experience which she's obviously lacking in. This helps provide perspective to the character and strengthen. she is crying and sees her brother. She talks to him trying to say something about life, but can’t finish it. Her brother then finishes it for her and says, “Isn’t life darling?” This is another example of the contrast of her sheltered life and the real world. She got a small taste of reality, and is shocked. At this point due to the weakness shown throughout as a reader I would conclude Laura experienced very little change from the pattern. At this point her brother is more than likely going to suck her back into her ignorance and bliss.

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