Thursday, December 17, 2009

304. The Garden Party – Katherine Mansfield

History: It was first published in the Saturday Westminster Gazette on 4 February 1922, then in the Weekly Westminster Gazette on 18 February 1922. It later appeared in The Garden Party and Other Stories. Katherine Mansfield was a short story writer, mainly writing about New Zealand, where she was born. The names Meg, Jose and Laurie may be related to Louisa May Alcott's 1868 Little Women.
Plot: The Sheridans are getting ready for a garden party. Laura is supposed to be in charge, but the workers appear to know better, and Mrs Sheridan has ordered lilies to be delivered for the party without her approval. Miss Jose tests the piano, and then sings a song in case she is asked to do so again later, the furniture is moved round, and then they learn that a poor neighbor, Mr Scott, who lives in a cottage near their main street has died. While Laura believes the party should be called off, neither Jose nor her mother agree. The party is a success, and later Mrs Sheridan decides it would be good of them to bring a basket full of leftovers to the Scotts' house. She summons Laura to do so. The latter is let into the poor neighbors' house by Mrs Scott's sister, then sees the matron herself and her late husband's corpse. The sight of his dead body brings her to tears, and she runs off back to her own house, where she sobs into Laurie's arms.
Review: Mansfield’s central concern here is with how we as human beings cope with and steel ourselves against the prospect of death and loss, and the ever present reality that everything that we care about, that we attach ourselves to in order to give life meaning, must ultimately vanish and die.
Opening Line: “And after all the weather was ideal.
Closing Line: "Isn't it, darling?" said Laurie.”
Quotes: “As for the roses, you could not help feeling they understood that roses are the only flowers that impress people at garden-parties; the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing."
Rating: Okay

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