Tone in The Garden Party

Tone Examples in The Garden Party:

The Garden Party 9

"A man killed..."   (The Garden Party)

Up until this point, the preparations for the garden party have been simply idyllic. All has gone according to plan, the weather is beautiful, and the party is shaping up to be splendid. However the death of this man casts a shadow on the Sheridan’s perfect garden party, and this eerie and surprising declaration foreshadows events to come.

"out at the doors..."   (The Garden Party)

Notice that the house is described as “alive with soft, quick steps and running voices” and that the “little faint winds [are] playing chase.” Mansfield uses personification to give the story a mystical, supernatural tone. Further, Mansfield’s imagery of the change in the air is both literal and figurative, foreshadowing a future turn of events in the narrative.

" "This Life is Wee-ary,..."   (The Garden Party)

Jose’s song represents an interesting shift in tone. The lyrics are somber, introducing a tone that contrasts the pleasant mood of the garden party. The operative word in the song is “weary,” which is most often used to describe people in a state of fatigue. “This life” refers to the upper-class life of the Sheridans, which is “weary” in the sense that Laura is bored of it, ready to move beyond its boundaries—one of the story’s central themes.

"wonder at him caring for things like that—caring for the smell of lavender. How many men that she knew would have done such a thing?..."   (The Garden Party)

Laura’s surprise that this workman cares about the scent of the flower demonstrates both her distance from the natural world and her distance from the minds of common people. Paying attention to a flower does not occur to her or the people who visit her house. The tone of this statement also communicates a type of superiority since Laura is surprised that this man has the curiosity or interest in the flower.

"It was just growing dusky as Laura shut their garden gates...."   (The Garden Party)

This sentence marks a massive transition in the tone of the story by introducing darker, more muted elements as the day comes to a close. In this paragraph alone we see words such as “dusky,” “shadow,” “shade,” and “pale,” all words that represent an absence of vibrance, color, and life. The transition is so strong that it’s as if Laura were leaving the land of the living behind her and venturing into the realm of the dead.

"yellow fruit..."   (The Garden Party)

Laura notes the “yellow” fruit here to add to the characterization of the setting as a shining, summer garden. The presence of fruit and bright colors furthers the perfection of the garden party’s setting.

"a bang slap in the eye..."   (The Garden Party)

Mansfield uses this colloquial phrase to show how class distinctions play out on the level of speech. For the marquee to give someone “a bang slap in the eye” is for it to be featured prominently, to be well in view. The phrase “bang slap in the eye” is inexact and carries a crude tone, causing Laura to react with mild alarm. It is interesting that Laura understands the worker nonetheless: “she did quite follow him.” The phrase is ultimately effective, and Laura’s willingness to “follow him” bespeaks her keen interest in the working class.

"And after all the weather was ideal...."   (The Garden Party)

The story opens with a line of perfect iambic pentameter, which establishes a tone of order and perfection. This would have been a calculated move by Mansfield, a prolific poet as well as short story writer.

"sky without a cloud..."   (The Garden Party)

Mansfield’s description of the weather as “ideal,” the day as “windless [and] warm,” and “the sky without a cloud,” creates a fantastical, whimsical tone. The setting for the garden party is almost too idyllic. The ethereal imagery suggests from the very beginning that the story will have a mystical element.