Vocabulary in The Garden Party

Vocabulary Examples in The Garden Party:

The Garden Party 28

"the little cottages were in deep shade...."   (The Garden Party)

The word “shade” bears two important meanings in this passage. On a literal level, “shade” refers to shadows and darkness, a visual motif for the population of the working class. On a more literary level, a “shade” is a ghost, a soul in the underworld. This is an important definition here in that Mansfield establishes a powerful allusion to Greek and Roman myths about characters who descend into Hades, or the underworld.

"arum lilies..."   (The Garden Party)

Arum lilies are bright white flowers with a large, cone-shaped petal. There is a yellow pestle in the middle of the flower. The other lilies mentioned earlier in this story were calla lilies, which are flowers of the same family that exhibit bright colors such as yellow, purple, and orange.

""What a becoming hat, child!"..."   (The Garden Party)

This comment contains a veiled double meaning. On the surface, the adjective “becoming” simply means “proper” or “stylish.” The hat, however, subtly marks a shift in Laura’s trajectory as a character. In a sense, Laura is in a state of “becoming.” As the story unfolds, Laura becomes a more mature and conscientious version of herself.

"and I can't understand how they keep alive in those poky little holes..."   (The Garden Party)

“Poky” is an outdated term that means “cramped” or “shabby.” Mrs. Sheridan’s comment reveals a disdain and lack of empathy for the working classes. The description of their homes as “holes” is dehumanizing in its suggestion that cottages are like animal lairs dug into the ground.

"People like that don't expect sacrifices from us..."   (The Garden Party)

The word “sacrifice” is interesting here. “Sacrifice” invokes the ritualistic offering to the gods as a form of praise to a higher power. In using this word, Mrs. Sheridan symbolically aligns the upper classes with deities: they are the ones to whom things are sacrificed; they do not make sacrifices themselves.

"What's given you such a colour?..."   (The Garden Party)

By this, Mrs. Sheridan means “what has made you so pale?” Paleness, or “colour,” in this context signifies distress of some nature. Mrs. Sheridan is asking Laura why she looks upset.

"cabbage..."   (The Garden Party)

“Cabbage” is historically a famine or poverty food. Famine food is any inexpensive and readily available food that can offer nutrients to poor residents during times of starvation, famine, or extreme poverty. These foods are associated with hardship and social stigma. While the Sheridan’s garden is populated with delicate, symbolic flowers, this garden grows only famine food.

"Don't be so extravagant...."   (The Garden Party)

The use of the word “extravagant” is quite telling. It comes from the Latin root “vagari,” which means “to wander” or “to roam.” The prefix “extra” denotes “outside.” Extravagant is thus an ideal description of Laura throughout the story. Laura’s role in the story is to be the one who “wanders outside” the garden, literally and figuratively.

"and now her voice sounded fond and sly, and fondly she drew down the sheet..."   (The Garden Party)

Here, we see that Em’s sister persuades Laura to look at the body. The adjective “sly” has connotations of ingenuity as well as deceitfulness. While on the surface we have little reason to believe that Em’s sister is trying to trick Laura, we can return to Greek and Roman mythology for a potential explanation. In the Persephone myth, she is tricked into eating pomegranate seeds and therefore bound to the underworld. Perhaps this instance parallels a similar story, in which Laura is tricked into seeing the body and forever bound to a new understanding of death.

"an oily voice..."   (The Garden Party)

When used as an adjective in this way, “oily” means that the person is being excessively compliant in speech or manners. In other words, she is trying to be so charming that it comes across as excessively flattering.

"True, they were far too near..."   (The Garden Party)

While Laura sympathizes with the people in the “little cottages” she also expresses the belief that the cottages “were far too near.” Laura then goes onto say that these houses “were the greatest possible eyesore” and even denies their right to exist in the neighborhood “at all.” Since the description of the “dwellings” indicates that the people living in the cottages are of the working-class, Laura’s comments here are incredibly classist.

"lilies—canna lilies..."   (The Garden Party)

Lilies, like daisies, are symbolic of innocence and purity. In Greek and Roman mythology, they were believed to have been born out of Hera’s spilled milk. The flowers were so beautiful that jealous Venus inserted an ugly pistil into the middle of them to distract from their beauty. These delicate flowers are white, purple, red, and often associated with springtime.

"squiz..."   (The Garden Party)

A “squiz” is a slang term in New Zealand and Australia for a look or glance. The use of this vernacular signals to the audience that the story is set in New Zealand.

"palings..."   (The Garden Party)

A “pale” is a wooden stake or post. When enough pales stand next to each other in a line, they form a “paling,” or a type of fence. Without other ways to support the pales, such as using horizontal plinths, this type of fence is of low quality and construction, which likely speaks to why Mansfield uses it in this passage: the palings emphasize the poverty in this area.

"veranda..."   (The Garden Party)

A “veranda” is a roofed platform along the outside of the ground-level of a home, like a porch. Typically, a veranda is only partially enclosed, often with a latticed roof. Latticed verandas are still quite popular today, and they continue to feature prominently in the Victorian-style architecture of New Zealand (where this short-story is set) among other places.

"The green baize door..."   (The Garden Party)

Baize is coarse woolen material used for curtains and furniture lining. In this case, the door would have been covered with baize, a common design in that time.

"lanky..."   (The Garden Party)

The adjective “lanky” means “awkwardly" or "ungracefully long and lean.” As the tallest of the men that Laura encounters here, this man might seem somewhat intimidating to Laura at first glance. However, Mansfield characterizes this “freckled fellow” as “friendly,” and his smile puts Laura at ease.

"karaka-trees..."   (The Garden Party)

A karaka tree is a type of evergreen indigenous to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Its dark green, leathery leaves have a leafy canopy quality and a stout trunk. The tree is known mostly for its bright-yellow fruit which ripens in the summer and autumn. The fruit contains one seed which is extremely poisonous when eaten raw. Victims of the karakin poison convulse so badly that they can become physically disabled or paralyzed.

"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.

"Not conspicuous enough..."   (The Garden Party)

Notice that the workers do not approve of the lily-lawn as the proper location for the Marquee. Lilies are symbolic for innocence and purity. It is possible that the lawn is not “conspicuous,” or visibly obvious, enough for the marquee because the natural backdrop, lilies, is not strong enough to be eye-catching. They choose a large, imposing tree instead of a soft, inviting lawn.

"copying her mother's voice..."   (The Garden Party)

Much like the last line in the passage above, here Laura reveals her enthusiasm for being perceived as an adult. However, this line works on a few levels. On the surface, Laura’s copying of her mother is an attempt at stepping into the role of an adult, which feels silly and childlike in itself for Laura. On another level, she is also trying to assume a new, more dominant role, which she realizes that she in not ready for. Her stammering in the following sentence indicates the lack of confidence she currently has in such a role. Mansfield further emphasizes Laura’s conflicting position: she is not a child, but not yet an adult.

"turban..."   (The Garden Party)

“Turban” in this context refers to a headdress worn by upper-class European and American women during the late 18th and early 19th century. It was supposed to resemble headdresses worn by women in Asia and can be read as a sign of colonial influences on upper-class culture.

"Kitty Maitland..."   (The Garden Party)

“Maitland” is one of the few surnames mentioned in the story. Interestingly, the name likely comes from Anglo-Norman French "maltalent," or "mautalent," meaning "bad temper." Since Kitty Maitland arrives on the scene and immediately makes some petty complaints, this surname selection is appropriate.

"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.

"silk petticoat..."   (The Garden Party)

A “petticoat” is a close-fitting undercoat, usually worn under a doublet and over a shirt. The fact that the petticoat is made of silk is indicative of Jose’s, and the Sheridan family’s, wealth and status, since silk was very costly.

"marquee..."   (The Garden Party)

A “marquee” is a large tent that it often used for social and commercial functions. Today, one might see marquees at outdoor wedding ceremonies, conventions, or festivals. This detail subtly informs the reader of the Sheridan’s socioeconomic status, as during this time, marquee’s would have been used for social gatherings of middle to upper-class individuals.

"daisy..."   (The Garden Party)

Daisies are symbolic of innocence and purity. In Celtic mythology it was believed that god sprinkled the flowers over the earth when a child died in order to cheer up the child’s parents. As it is a flower that blooms all year round, it is also a symbol of immortality. The presence of daisies in the garden suggests that there is a dark undercurrent to all of the joy and perfection that make up this setting.

"rosettes..."   (The Garden Party)

“Rosettes” are garden ornaments that are carved, painted, or moulded to resemble a rose. In this context, the rosettes are plates on which potted daisies are placed. Notice that roses are so prevalent in this garden that they even ornament the other flowers that are present.