The Garden Party

Marxism in Mansfield

In Katherine Mansfield's "The Garden-Party", the socioeconomically-derived false consciousness discussed by Michael Bell in "The Metaphysics of Modernism" initially blinds the protagonist Laura from viewing the world in any context outside of her household. While the story's pivotal actions do not change Laura's physical existence and setting, they drastically alter her metaphysical social awareness in such a way that the depth of her "awakening" underscores the extent to which her social context initially shielded her perception of the world.

Immediately, Katherine Mansfield paints an almost painfully idealized image of a garden party: the weather is flawless, the lawn is trimmed to perfection, the flowers and plants are blooming with an almost divine beauty. Extrapolation sets the story in some sort of socially-advantaged household, where the extent of the children's worries stretches no further than the problem of locating an optimal setting for a marquee. The almost absurd nature of this idealized setting gives the reader the impression that this Modernist story is, in fact, accenting the ignorance of the family in question. This is a point that Bell emphasizes in his discussion...

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