The Garden Party

Can Beryl Fairfield's and Mrs. Kemper's relationship be viewed as romantic?

In At the Bay, chapter 5, Beryl opts to undress with Mrs. Kemper rather than with her family, even though she is aware of her mother's disapproval. When she does meet Mrs. Kemper, she is reluctant to undress in front of her, but finding a surge of boldness she steps out of her clothes. There are some moments when Mrs. Kemper touches Beryl and also offers up some playful/ flirtasious comments, such as "Really, it's a sin for you to wear clothes, my dear. Somebody's got to tell you some day." Though other critics and reviews view Mrs. Kemper's advice to be directed to men, could she also be refering to her own relationship with Beryl Fairfield, when she says "I believe in pretty girls having a good time," said Mrs. Harry Kember. "Why not? Don't you make a mistake, my dear. Enjoy yourself."

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No, there is no allusion to romance between the two women. Mrs. Kember is rather forward for woman of the time period, and she is described as masculine. She also has a questionable relationship with her husband. Might her intentions be of the romantic sort.... it's possible, but as already stated, her character is forward thinking..... she often acts for affect and pushes the envelope. Thus, she smokes before women felt free to smoke in public, she isn't ashamed of her body, she pushes the envelope...... enocurages Beryl to embrace sexual freedom and experiment. None-the-less, it isn't Mrs. Kember who ultimately makes the gorl uncomfortable...... it is the attentions of her husband that make us question her motives. Does Mrs. Kember look for, befriend, and supply her husband with young conquests? This question is never answered.


At the Bay