2000-02-07 A summary of the setting in "The Garden-Party" by Katherine Mansfield. The setting in the book The Garden-Party is a very central element in the story. It is a beautiful summer day and a respectable family are having a garden party. All the roses and other flowers are colourful and fresh and the garden is extremely well-kept. The main reason for the garden party seems to be showing-off among friends in the upper-class. The mother in the family is very thorough in her preparations, everything has to be in a specific way.
The flowers, the music, and the food etc. must all form the wonderful atmosphere that she has in her mind. In fact, the setting and atmosphere is just what it is all about from her point of view. Mrs Sheridan, the mother, wants the party to symbolism the very essence of summer.
It is a chance for the women to show their new dresses and hats, chat about how wonderful the summertime is and enjoy all the fresh flowers and bushes in the magnificent garden. The author, Katherine Mansfield, creates a wonderful setting, describing a fantastic garden and the stressful, but rather fun part, where the mother and her daughters make all the joyful preparations for the afternoon. Everything has to be in order and it would be very embarrassing if they would miss something, the etiquette is very important, since all the fine ladies will come. They are quite used to throwing parties though, so the stress and excitement is more because of the fun in it.
Everything points at a very successful garden party, if not for the terrible news that a young man just had died in an accident. The author describes the neighbouring houses as a great contrast to that of the Sheridans'. The houses are dark-tiled, dirty, smelly and with lots of animals and children running in the alleys. The black smoke from the chimneys mix with the fres summer air and really creates a depressing image.
The low social class of the people living there is pointed out as another "black stain", destroying the perfect view of the landscape for Mrs Sheridan. Nevertheless, since it was a neighbour that had died, and that it had happened just the same morning, Laura, (one of the daughters), has second thoughts about continuing with the garden party. Laura does not see it the way her mother does. She draws no line between her social class and their, not when it comes to death anyway. In fact, she is very disturbed by the thought that they will be cheering, chatting and having a band with music, while the neighbours moan their dear one. By describing this, the author shows a great contrast to the perfect image that was drawn earlier.
Mrs Sheridan will not have anything to interfere with her plans of having the garden party. So, they carry on with the party, and all the guests love it. The fact that a young man is laying dead in the other house haunts Laura and her mother though, making it a difficult emotional experience. This concludes the setting if the story, in my opinion, creating a strange feeling for the reader. In one way, the party was a success, because all the guests were unknowing about any terrible deaths and enjoyed a wonderful and perfect garden party. On the other hand, Mrs Sheridan and her daughters could not really enjoy it, since they saw the dark side of life this day.
Was it a great day or not.