The Garden Party

by

Katherine Mansfield

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Laura Sheridan Character Analysis

The story’s curious and free-spirited protagonist, Laura is Mr. and Mrs. Sheridan’s teenage daughter and sister to Laurie, Jose and Meg. As she begins to come of age, Laura starts to realize the pitfalls of her privileged upbringing, especially the restrictions it places on socializing. She is disappointed, for example, by the “silly boys” courting her rather than “extraordinarily nice” men from the lower classes, like the workmen who put up the marquee. Laura’s mother calls her “the artistic one” and sends her to do various odd jobs in preparation for the garden party that afternoon, but as Laura increasingly realizes that working-class people in her community must work tirelessly and endure poverty in order for her family to maintain their extravagant lifestyle, she becomes increasingly torn between the leisurely gentility of her upbringing and her sympathy for the workers her parents and siblings barely acknowledge. When Laura overhears that Scott has died in a horrible accident, she urges the rest of her family to cancel the party, but her protests fall on deaf ears and she decides to go on with the party once she sees herself in the mirror wearing her mother’s extravagant daisy-trim hat. Later, Laura’s mother sends her to deliver a basket of leftover food to the cart-driver’s family. When she arrives, Laura is unsettled by the cottages’ squalid conditions and overwhelmed with anxiety about her own wealth, especially the hat and clothes that make her class status obvious. Upon seeing Scott’s body, Laura has an epiphany about life, death, wealth and poverty (although the reader never quite learns what exactly she has figured out).

Laura Sheridan Quotes in The Garden Party

The The Garden Party quotes below are all either spoken by Laura Sheridan or refer to Laura Sheridan . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Garden Party published in 1997.
The Garden Party Quotes

“My dear child, it's no use asking me. I'm determined to leave everything to you children this year. Forget I am your mother. Treat me as an honoured guest.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Sheridan (speaker), Laura Sheridan , Meg Sheridan
Related Symbols: Marquee
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

He bent down, pinched a sprig of lavender, put his thumb and forefinger to his nose and snuffed up the smell. When Laura saw that gesture she forgot all about the karakas in her wonder at him caring for things like that the smell of lavender. How many men that she knew would have done such a thing? Oh, how extraordinarily nice workmen were, she thought. Why couldn't she have workmen for her friends rather than the silly boys she danced with and who came to Sunday night supper? She would get on much better with men like these.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Laura Sheridan , The Workmen
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

There, just inside the door, stood a wide, shallow tray full of pots of pink lilies. No other kind. Nothing but lilies radiant, almost frighteningly alive on bright crimson stems.

"O-oh, Sadie!" said Laura, and the sound was like a little moan. She crouched down as if to warm herself at that blaze of lilies; she felt they were in her fingers, on her lips, growing in her breast.

Related Characters: Laura Sheridan (speaker), Sadie
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

“This Life is Wee-ary,
A Tear—a Sigh.
A Love that Chan-ges,
This Life is Wee-ary,
A Tear—a Sigh.
A Love that Chan-ges,
And then... Good-bye!”

But at the word "Good-bye," and although the piano sounded more desperate than ever, her face broke into a brilliant, dreadfully unsympathetic smile.

"Aren't I in good voice, mummy?" she beamed.

“This Life is Wee-ary,
Hope comes to Die.
A Dream—a Wa-kening.”

Related Characters: Jose Sheridan (speaker), Laura Sheridan , Mrs. Sheridan, Meg Sheridan, Hans, Sadie
Page Number: 42-43
Explanation and Analysis:

Godber's man wasn't going to have his story snatched from under his very nose.

"Know those little cottages just below here, miss?" Know them? Of course, she knew them. “Well, there's a young chap living there, name of Scott, a carter. His horse shied at a traction-engine, corner of Hawke Street this morning, and he was thrown out on the back of his head. Killed.”

“Dead!” Laura stared at Godber's man.

“Dead when they picked him up," said Godber's man with relish. "They were taking the body home as I come up here." And he said to the cook, "He's left a wife and five little ones.”

Related Characters: Laura Sheridan (speaker), Godber’s Man (speaker), Hans, Sadie, Cook, Mr. Scott
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

The little cottages were in a lane to themselves at the very bottom of a steep rise that led up to the house. A broad road ran between. True, they were far too near. They were the greatest possible eyesore, and they had no right to be in that neighbourhood at all. They were little mean dwellings painted a chocolate brown. In the garden patches there was nothing but cabbage stalks, sick hens and tomato cans. The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty-stricken. Little rags and shreds of smoke, so unlike the great silvery plumes that uncurled from the Sheridans' chimneys. Washerwomen lived in the lane and sweeps and a cobbler, and a man whose house-front was studded all over with minute bird-cages. Children swarmed. When the Sheridans were little they were forbidden to set foot there because of the revolting language and of what they might catch. But since they were grown up, Laura and Laurie on their prowls sometimes walked through. It was disgusting and sordid. They came out with a shudder. But still one must go everywhere; one must see everything. So through they went.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Laura Sheridan , Laurie Sheridan, Mr. Scott
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

“Oh, Laura!” Jose began to be seriously annoyed. “If you're going to stop a band playing every time some one has an accident, you'll lead a very strenuous life. I'm every bit as sorry about it as you. I feel just as sympathetic.” Her eyes hardened. She looked at her sister just as she used to when they were little and fighting together. “You won't bring a drunken workman back to life by being sentimental,” she said softly.

Related Characters: Jose Sheridan (speaker), Laura Sheridan , Mr. Scott
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

“It's only by accident we've heard of it. If some one had died there normally—and I can't understand how they keep alive in those poky little holes—we should still be having our party, shouldn't we?”

Laura had to say “yes” to that, but she felt it was all wrong.

“Mother, isn't it terribly heartless of us?" she asked.

“Darling!” Mrs. Sheridan got up and came over to her, carrying the hat. Before Laura could stop her she had popped it on. “My child!” said her mother, “the hat is yours. It's made for you. It's much too young for me. I have never seen you look such a picture. Look at yourself!” And she held up her hand-mirror.

Related Characters: Laura Sheridan (speaker), Mrs. Sheridan (speaker), Mr. Scott
Related Symbols: Hat
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

The lane began, smoky and dark. Women in shawls and men’s tweed caps hurried by. Men hung over the palings; the children played in the doorways. A low hum came from the mean little cottages. In some of them there was a flicker of light, and a shadow, crab-like, moved across the window. Laura bent her head and hurried on. She wished now she had put on a coat. How her frock shone! And the big hat with the velvet streamer—if only it was another hat! Were the people looking at her? They must be. It was a mistake to have come; she knew all along it was a mistake. Should she go back even now?

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Laura Sheridan , Mrs. Sheridan, Mr. Scott
Related Symbols: Hat
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

There lay a young man, fast asleep—sleeping so soundly, so deeply, that he was far, far away from them both. Oh, so remote, so peaceful. He was dreaming. Never wake him up again. His head was sunk in the pillow, his eyes were closed; they were blind under the closed eyelids. He was given up to his dream. What did garden-parties and baskets and lace frocks matter to him? He was far from all those things. He was wonderful, beautiful. While they were laughing and while the band was playing, this marvel had come to the lane. Happy... happy... All is well, said that sleeping face. This is just as it should be. I am content.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Laura Sheridan , Mr. Scott
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

"Isn't life," she stammered, "isn't life—” But what life was she couldn’t explain. No matter. He quite understood.

"Isn't it, darling?" said Laurie.

Related Characters: Laura Sheridan (speaker), Laurie Sheridan (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Garden Party LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Garden Party PDF

Laura Sheridan Character Timeline in The Garden Party

The timeline below shows where the character Laura Sheridan appears in The Garden Party. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Garden Party
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Beauty, Refinement and Detachment Theme Icon
Childhood, Family and Independence Theme Icon
...day. As Mrs. Sheridan eats breakfast with at least two of her daughters, Meg and Laura, four workmen come to assemble the marquee (a large outdoor tent). Mrs. Sheridan insists that... (full context)
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Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
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Laura is delighted to have this responsibility and heads outside with her breakfast of “bread-and-butter.” She... (full context)
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Laura suggests they set up the marquee on the lily-lawn. The workman disagrees, suggesting the marquee... (full context)
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...answers her own question: “they must.” The workmen have already started assembling the marquee, and Laura’s worries evaporate when she is surprised to see one of them bend down and sniff... (full context)
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Someone inside yells that Laura has a telephone call. She runs inside and encounters Mr. Sheridan and her brother Laurie,... (full context)
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Laura answers the call from Kitty Maitland and, again imitating her mother’s voice, invites her over... (full context)
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The doorbell rings; Sadie, one of the Sheridans’ domestic servants, answers it. Laura joins her to find that the florist has come with trays and trays full of... (full context)
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
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...the piano so she can practice, in case she has to sing at the party. Laura and Mrs. Sheridan enter the room as Jose begins to sing a tragic song called... (full context)
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Childhood, Family and Independence Theme Icon
...have them yet. Mrs. Sheridan tells Meg and Jose to finish getting dressed and tells Laura to write the names on the flags for her. Mrs. Sheridan also asks Jose to... (full context)
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Beauty, Refinement and Detachment Theme Icon
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Laura brings the sandwich flags to the kitchen where Jose “congratulate[s]” the cook on the fifteen... (full context)
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On her way outside, Laura encounters Godber’s man excitedly telling a story to Sadie, Hans, and the cook, who look... (full context)
Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Childhood, Family and Independence Theme Icon
Laura is astonished at the news and brings Jose aside to figure out how they are... (full context)
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To Laura’s astonishment, once Mrs. Sheridan realizes the death wasn’t in the garden, she has no more... (full context)
Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Beauty, Refinement and Detachment Theme Icon
Childhood, Family and Independence Theme Icon
Laura storms out and heads to her own bedroom, where she accidentally glimpses herself in the... (full context)
Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
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...in their green outfits. Laurie returns from the office and heads inside to get dressed. Laura suddenly remembers Scott and heads inside to ask his opinion, but decides not to mention... (full context)
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The party begins: guests arrive, stroll around the garden, and compliment Laura, who glows with joy and helps greet the attendees. She asks her father if the... (full context)
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...brings up Scott’s death, about which he heard from another source. Mrs. Sheridan complains that Laura wanted to stop the party. Mr. Sheridan laments the tragic accident, which the narrator finds... (full context)
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As the sun begins to set, Laura leaves the garden and starts down the road, but all she can think about is... (full context)
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Suddenly, the door opens and a woman tells Laura to come in against her protests. Throughout, Laura continues to stutter and is left unable... (full context)
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Laura is overcome with a sense of tranquility at the sight of Scott’s dead body—she sees... (full context)
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Laura walks past the rest of the cottages, where she encounters Laurie on the road that... (full context)