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Literary Devices in The Garden Party

Point of View: Mansfield often conflates her third-person narration with the tone and feelings of her protagonist. This form of narration is called third-person limited. In “The Garden Party,” Mansfield imbues the third-person narration with the feelings and thoughts of Laura as we follow her throughout the day.

Imagery and Symbols: Mansfield uses various natural images throughout her narrative, with a specific focus on flowers. Laura’s hat is decorated with gold daisies that bestow upon her a metaphorical crown. Mrs. Sheridan tells Laura to take the white arum lilies to the grieving Scott widow, although later decides against it as the stems will stain Laura’s dress. Both lilies and daisies connote a sense of purity and innocence associated with Laura’s sheltered upper-class life. In contrast, the Scotts’ garden grows cabbage. The Scotts cannot afford the luxury of aesthetic beauty; instead, their garden functions as a food source. Along with this natural imagery, Mansfield employs light and dark as symbols for the upper and lower classes. While the Sheridans’s house and garden are described as light and airy, the Scotts’s property is shown as dark and grim, foreshadowed by the setting sun as Laura sets off down the lane.

Literary Devices Examples in The Garden Party:

The Garden Party

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"People of that class are so impressed by arum lilies."..."   (The Garden Party)

Mrs. Sheridan’s comment is a classed opinion that assumes that her high status grants her superior knowledge of other’s tastes. Her comment here can be read as condescending and dismissive. Mrs. Sheridan may also be making the comment that the lower classes are impressed by arum lilies because they are so white, a color that is not present in the dark and dingy homes below the Sheridan mansion.

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"That really was extravagant,..."   (The Garden Party)

This passage represents an example of free indirect speech, a style of narration Mansfield employs often. It is a style in which the voice of the character and that of the third-person narrator become merged. While the thought “that really was extravagant” is part of the narration, it really belongs to Laura. In such moments, the narration slips into the character’s mind, narrating her consciousness.

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"wide open, radiant, almost frighteningly alive on bright crimson stems...."   (The Garden Party)

Notice that these flowers are characterized as “radiant,” “frighteningly alive,” and having “crimson stems.” The robustness of the flowers underscores the liveliness of the setting and the initial personification of the flowers in the story. Their crimson stems create imagery that makes the flowers seem as though they are full of blood and therefore life-like.

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"chock-chock..."   (The Garden Party)

A “chock” is a short hollow sound produced by hammering. It is also an example of onomatopoeia, or a word that has been formed to imitate the sound it makes.

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