Offer a Marxist reading of any passage from Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’ Essay Example
Offer a Marxist reading of any passage from Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’ Essay Example

Offer a Marxist reading of any passage from Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’ Essay Example

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  • Pages: 4 (880 words)
  • Published: December 25, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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The perfect setting for a garden party is suddenly marred by a tragic event, leaving everyone questioning the details - "Who? What? Where? When?" - only to discover that the victim is a young and impoverished cart driver from the rundown neighborhood adjacent to the opulent estate of the Sheridan family.

Laura, the most sensitive and youngest of the Sheridan sisters, is upset by the news and feels that the party must be called off. She believes that it would be inappropriate to continue as if nothing has happened. On the other hand, Jose, the older sister, is surprised by Laura's reaction and scolds her for being too dramatic. Jose argues that no one expects them to cancel the party.

Despite feigning sympathy towards the carter and his family, Jose's "hard" eyes reveal her true disdain. Living just across the road, the carter's family was seen as havin


g no right to be in their upscale neighborhood. The Sheridans' perfect day, including their highly anticipated garden party, was disrupted due to a "drunken workman", leading to conflicts of class and prejudice throughout the story. Society's strict codes of behavior govern all interaction between the haves and have-nots, with parallel lives considered the norm.

Occasionally, there are hints of tension in the Sheridan household - for example, Laura's mother expressing her fear of the cook. However, these conflicts are quickly smoothed over. When the family shows an interest in the less fortunate, such as during their visit to a poor neighborhood, it is more reminiscent of an entomologist's detached observations rather than genuine empathy. Nevertheless, there is a profound underlying theme present. Ironically, the one person who challenges the prevailing

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bourgeois ideology has little to gain from disrupting it.

Laura observes that the cook is not frightening. This causes her anger towards Jose's assumption that the carter was intoxicated during the accident. Laura is certain about canceling the party, but is surprised when she learns that her mother shares Jose's opinion. Mrs. Sheridan realizes the potential consequences of Laura's distress and tries to divert her with a beautiful hat. Though Laura wears it, she refuses to look in the mirror. At this moment, the Family Ideological State Apparatus is enforced as Laura's mother warns her not to ruin everyone's enjoyment.

After performing a 'hat trick', Laura eventually reaps its rewards. In solitude, she fixes her eyes on the mirror and becomes mesmerized by her own reflection. Suddenly, Laura views herself from the perspective of her upbringing and social standing as an enchanting and youthful member of the upper class. According to Althusser, this could be interpreted as an 'imaginary distortion'8 pertaining to Laura's connection with reality.

Laura perceives the distorted image as the truth, replacing the tragic reality of the widow and her children. Her mirror identity becomes reinforced by ideology through repeated interactions known as 'interpellation'. These include compliments from both family and guests, such as 'My word, Laura! You do look stunning', 'Darling Laura, how well you look!', and 'Laura, you look quite Spanish.' The success of the garden party, which also served as Laura's debutante ball, is interrupted when Mr. Sheridan brings up the accident, causing Laura's previous unrest to resurface.

Upon her husband's mention of it, Mrs. Sheridan gets upset. To alleviate her guilty conscience or perhaps to act kindly, she suggests that Laura take

the leftover sandwiches from the party and give them to the widow. Laura winces at this gesture's lack of appropriateness and wonders why she differs so much from her family in this regard. This moment leaves one hopeful that maybe Laura has not fully internalized their beliefs.

Despite her initial resistance to maternal authority, Laura ultimately gives in and is unaware of her inappropriate attire until encountering her 'neighbors' on the way to the Scott's cottage. It is possible that had she worn a 'pre-hat', she may have displayed more tact and empathy during this encounter. Once at the cottage, Laura is faced with the stark contrast between the cheerful events of the garden party and the somber realities of the Scott family. The grieving widow is unable to communicate with Laura, leading to her being taken to another room to view the deceased man.

Laura is deeply moved when she notices the serene, content and beautiful appearance of the dead man. She attempts to find some consolation from this scene, hinting that death surpasses the meanness of material possessions. However, Laura's endeavor to justify is short-lived as the harsh realities of the present become evident to her and she feels powerless in the face of the status quo. Ultimately, all she can do is apologize for her hat to the dead man before fleeing the house and embracing her brother. In the end, her brother's embrace and the hat come to symbolize the constraints of the ideology that Laura is incapable of overthrowing.

The woman's overwhelming emotions cause her to break down in tears and utter, "Isn't life... isn't life..." Although she doesn't complete her sentence, her

brother and we audience comprehend the meaning behind her words. It is the constant reality of the way things are and how they will remain.

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