Laura’s Struggle for Growth in The Garden Party
Through her short story "The Garden Party," Katherine Mansfield portrays a young woman’s struggle through adolescence and her tumultuous entrance into adulthood. Mansfield paints a tale of grievance, bewilderment, enlightenment, and maturation furthered by the complications of class distinctions. Mansfield’s protagonist, Laura, encounters considerable hardship in growing up and must denounce all of the puerile convictions in her chimerical world in order to attain maturity in the real adult world.
As does any normal teenager, Laura Sheridan struggles to make sense of her adolescent life. As Don Klein remarks, "The story’s focus—and central dramatic impulse—is the young
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Mrs. Sheridan ironically informs her daughter, "My dear child, it’s no use asking me. I’m determined to leave everything to you children this year" (Mansfield 2510). Yet, she does not hesitate to purchase flowers for the party, erect the menu, or even make arrangements for decorations: "Bank [the lilies] up, just inside the door, on both sides of the porch, please. Don’t you agree, Laura?" (Mansfield 2513). By inquiring about Laura’s opinion, Mrs. Sheridan intends to construct an illusory image of Laura’s autonomy, but Laura swiftly picks up on the deception. Laura responds with, "But I thought that you said you didn’t mean to interfere," (Mansfield 2513). Mrs. Sheridan offers no retort to Laura’s remark but does later attempt to reconstruct the illusion of her children’s control of the party and of their own lives: "But oh, these parties, these parties! Why will you children insist on giving parties!" (Mansfield 2518). Thus through banter between Mrs. Sheridan and Laura, Mrs. Sheridan’s false motives are exposed as well as Laura’s increased awareness to the surrounding real world.
As Laura’s awareness of her surroundings expands, she loses some of her naivete, and eventually she shatters her spurious fantasy world. But before the whole illusion is shattered, there is conspicuous foreshadowing. Laura’s sister Jose sings "an empty song that