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The Ironic Symbolism in Kathrine Mansfields The Garden party

The main story is about Laura Sheridan who lives in a family that is belong to the upperclass society which about to held a garden party on their backyard. It all begins in an optimistic
mood, though, with a scene of conspicuous consumption abundant with good things to eat,
lovely things to wear, wonderful expensive flowers to enjoy (Fullbrook, 1986, p. 118 in Kaya,
2011). The journey of Laura coming of age begins early at the very beginning of the story. Depict
from her mother wish to leave the party for her children to manage and for her children to treat
her as a guest not their mother. Laura is confused of course about how she could handle such a
party. Although she looks very promising at the beginning, her way to look at the worker
somehow depicts a distraction towards her job (to help the workmen established the marquee)
and also foreshadows a distraction later in the story which makes the party is somehow unable to
be continued because of the death of the familys neighbor which is dark and contradictive to the
familys image that represented at the beginning of the story as stated by Fullbrook in Kaya.
Through this kind of symbolism or representation I believe we can found some irony towards
Mrs. Sheridans family and most importantly Lauras character.
The first interesting symbol that depicts irony in this family is the karakas trees, the
desert island and the marquee. The narrator which more like Laurels stream of consciousness
says about the position of the marquee that would be put before the karakas trees They were
like trees you imagined growing on a desert island, proud, solitary, lifting their leaves and fruits
to the sun in a kind of silent splendor. Must they be hidden by a marquee? (Mansfield, 1921, p.
02). This symbolize the children as the karakas trees, the desert island is the family atmosphere
and the marquee would be the barrier their mother built between her children and the outside
world. The first irony pulled out of this symbol is the independency their mothers gave upon

them about managing the party. Party as we know it is an event being held to gather people,
whether it is our relatives or friends, which means letting the outside world enter the familys
facility. The act of her mother isolating Laura is depicted by the conversation about stopping the
party because of their neighbors death. The party is only hold for the high class people it is clear
that her mother is rather reluctant and ignorant when it comes to dealing with the low class
people. This proven by the mothers way of talking about the low class people while they
neighborhood is nearby the low class area That really was extravagant, for the little cottages
were in a lane to the bottom of a steep rise that led up to the house. A broad road ran between.
True, they were far too near. They were the greatest possible eyesore, and they had no right to be
in that neighborhood at all. (Mansfield, 1921, pp. 7).
The second symbol is Lauras hat it is also an important symbol to the process of Lauras
coming of age. There are two act in which the hat is playing an important role. The first is when
Mrs. Sheridan put it on Lauras head. The hat is actually Mrs. Sheridans and she said that it is
made for her. This somehow symbolize Mrs. Sheridans way of seeing the world and attitude
including how much she aware of social-class is being transferred to Laura. This also symbolize
artificiality of Lauras attitude.
Mrs. Sheridan obliges her daughter to put on the hatis a traditional symbol of
social artificiality in Mansfields fiction The imposition of the hat against
Lauras will is evident. The fact that the hat has been made for her indicates its
artificiality, together with the idea of the picture that destroys any trace of
naturalness, as it suggests a pose. Laura displays her rebellious attitude when she
refuses to look at herself in the mirror. However, social weight is
stronger and, in the end, she gives up when, some minutes later, she enters her
bedroom and the first thing she saw was this charming girl in the mirror, in her
black hat trimmed with gold daisies and a long black velvet ribbon. Never had
she imagined she could look like that. Is mother right? She thought. And now she
hoped her mother was right (CS 256). This image emphasizes that the hat,
which symbolizes artificial femininity imposed on women, is catchy and beautiful,

but black and mournful, foreshadowing the funeral of women and their personal
annihilation. (Salas, 2005, pp.05)
The second important point where the hat is become very important is the moment when
end the end she walk out the door after visiting the deceased neighbor and she said Pardon my
hat this somehow an ironic symbolism and show us how Laura is not stable enough in terms of
going through her coming-of age phase. The hat as we know it is a symbol of her mother pride
and attitudes that has been transferred to Laura and artificiality of Lauras attitude. She accept
it by staring and admiring her own figure in the mirror. But, then in this act, after she saw the
reality of what happened she somehow feel ashamed of it at said Pardon my hat.
This symbolism Mansfield uses is to emphasize the story of a girl coming of age itself.
As these two examples suggest:
And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect
day for a garden-party if they had ordered it. Windless, warm, the sky without a
cloud. Only the blue was veiled with a haze of light gold, as it is sometimes in
early summer.
(Mansfield, 1921, pp.01)
And the perfect afternoon slowly ripened, slowly faded, slowly its petals closed
(Mansfield, 1921, pp. 09)
It was just growing dusky as Laura shut their garden gates. A big dog ran by
like a shadow. The road gleamed white, and down below in the hollow the little
cottages were in deep shade. How quiet it seemed after the afternoon.
(Mansfield, 1921, pp. 10)
The story started with a very bright ambience with a very bright sky, a party atmosphere
but as the story goes on and Laura is about to see the new dark phase of life, death, Mansfield
then symbolize the dark gloomy atmosphere using the change of weather as stated by Cumming
(2007) In "A Garden Party" the world of the Sheridans is bright, shining, and heavenly. The
world of the Scotts, on the other hand, is dark, gloomy, and cimmerian. Besides contrasting the

two worlds, the imagery also reflects the conflicting moods of Laura as she perceives life
around her.
The last but not least, the irony now applies to Kathrine Mansfield herself. As we know
that symbolism is the use of an object, person, situation, or word to represent something else (an
idea) in literature. Mansfield often use death and other gloomy ambience in his short story. This
somehow symbolize her deep mourn that the same thing happened to his brother. In this short
story The Garden Party, Mansfield put at least two events of her life. A party she had in her
house in 1907. Laura is not her but her sister Vera and between the event of the garden party and
the story is World War I which is the time when she loses his brother. Furthermore, Britschgi
(2009) stated that the incident of her brother's death seems to have influenced her writing. That
is how Katherine Mansfield, still in shock just a few days after learning of her brother's death in
the war, described him to a friend. Twenty-one-year-old Leslie "Chummie" Beauchamp had
been stationed in France for less than a month when on 7 October 1915, as he was giving a hand
grenade demonstration, a defective grenade blew up in his hand with a force so strong it killed
both himself and his sergeant (Alpers 183 in Darrohn 1998). This colloquial and short
explanation sounds or reflect the sadness she had in her heart. What more important is the last
act when Laurie leads Laura back home sobbing. Laura is trying to ask Laurie but she stop and
left her words unfinished and Laurie said isnt it darling? if we read the excerpt of the act
when Laurie and Laura had the conversation, it gives the impression that Mansfield is trying to
ask his brother up in heaven about life.
Finally, it appears Mansfield using symbolism to emphasize irony in her story. The first
thing is the about solitary life the Sheridan family led because they lived as a high-class family
with low-class houses around. How Mrs. Sheridan build a barrier between Laura and the open

world yet let her to independently manage the party. The second is about the hat her mother
gave. It somehow depicts her mothers attitude transferred to Laura and she learns to accept it
because it seems good for her after she reject it at the first time but later in the story she feels
sorry about that after visiting her deceased neighbor. The last one is death and the death of her
brother and the sad feelings it left. In the end it is true the story contains irony through symbol
Mansfield use about her own experience in life.
References
Britschgi, A. (2012). GUILT ON KATHERINE MANSFIELD'S "THE GARDEN
PARTY" Retrieved January 1, 2015, from
http://www.themontrealreview.com/2009/Katherine-Mansfield-The-Garden-Party.php
Kaya, S. (2011). Laura's Lessons in Kathrine Mansfield's Garden Party. American International
Journal of Contemporary Literature, 01(02), 54-54. Retrieved January 1, 2015, from
http://www.themontrealreview.com/2009/Katherine-Mansfield-The-Garden-Party.php
Rodriguez Salas, G. (2005). The Postmodern Katherine Mansfield: Beyond the Self of
Modernism In The Garden-Party. Agora: An Online Graduate Journal, 3(2), 1-1.
Retrieved January 1, 2015, from http://www.arts.ualberta.ca/agora
J. Cumming, M. (2007, January 1). The garden Party's Imagery: Light and Darkness. Retrieved
January 1, 2015, from http://cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides4/GardenParty.html
Darrohn, C. (1998). "Blown to Bits!": Katherine Mansfield's "The Garden-Party" and the Great
War. MFS Modern Fiction Studies, 44(03), 513-539
Mansfield, K. (n.d.). The garden party. Retrieved December 30, 2014, from
http://www.katherinemansfieldsociety.org

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