Metaphor in The Garden Party

Metaphor Examples in The Garden Party:

The Garden Party 7

"But it all seemed blurred, unreal, like a picture in the newspaper...."   (The Garden Party)

The newspaper represents the events of the real world outside the idyllic space of the Sheridan household. Laura’s “blurred” perspective of the newspaper illustrates her naïve understanding of the outside world. The motif of the newspaper reappears again after Laura descends into the reality of the working class cottages.

"Little rags and shreds of smoke, so unlike the great silvery plumes that uncurled from the Sheridans' chimneys...."   (The Garden Party)

Mansfield uses metaphorical language to separate the living conditions of the working class from those of the upper classes. The metaphors double as examples of metonymy in that the objects used to describe the smoke emerging from rich and poor houses are domestic in nature. The smoke from the cottages is like “little rags and shreds,” indicating poverty, while the Sheridan’s smoke is “silvery,” silver being a token of wealth. Since rags are used to clean and polish silver this metaphor also maps directly onto the hierarchical relationship between the rich and the poor.

"In the garden patches there was nothing but cabbage stalks, sick hens and tomato cans...."   (The Garden Party)

Notice the sharp contrast between the “gardens” of the poor houses and the decadence of the Sheridan’s garden. While the narrator spends a lot of time describing the flowers in the Sheridan’s garden, the description here focuses on the lack of beauty in these places. “Sick hens,” “tomato cans,” and “cabbage” are all indicative of scarcity. There is no abundance here.

"He had a haggard look as his dark eyes scanned the tennis-court. What was he thinking?..."   (The Garden Party)

Mansfield adds an additional layer to the set of distinctions between the working classes and upper classes. The word “haggard” comes from Old French and literally means “wild.” There is something earthy and untamed about the workingmen. The return of the “dark eyes” reiterates the light-versus-dark symbolism. It is most notable that, despite her efforts, there is a chasm between Laura and the man; she cannot read him. “What was he thinking?” she wonders to herself.

"Wherever you looked there were couples strolling, bending to the flowers, greeting, moving on over the lawn...."   (The Garden Party)

Having seen all the planning and preparation that happens to orchestrate this party, we can now examine how the guests are behaving in Mrs. Sheridan’s garden. First, they walk about in couples, which suggests that they have romantically paired off. Second, they bend to the flowers, which we associate with beauty, fertility, and growth. With these two readings in mind, we can perhaps view Mrs. Sheridan’s garden party as more than a simple gathering; it is an opportunity for people to meet and marry and Mrs. Sheridan to play matchmaker.

"a dark wet curl stamped on each cheek..."   (The Garden Party)

The narrator describes Meg’s wet curls stamped on each cheek to create a two-dimensional image; Meg’s hair is flattened onto the plane of her face. Coupled with the lavish images of coffee and her bright turban, the two-dimensional quality of this description likens Meg to a subject depicted before perspectivism was invented, such as figures on an ancient urn or in a medieval portrait. This quality adds to the idyllic nature of the day and the god-like quality of these aristocrats.

"flowers..."   (The Garden Party)

Mansfield uses flowers in this opening passage to describe the setting and lay the foundations for many themes within the story. Throughout the story, she will continue to use flowers for their appearance and their metaphorical significance.