The Garden Party

by

Katherine Mansfield

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Garden Party can help.

The Narrator Character Analysis

The narrator of "The Garden Party" is third-person and omniscient, but far from objective. In general, Mansfield's narrator parrots the Sheridan family's condescension toward the poor and their obsession with showing off all the beautiful things they can buy. When Laura interacts with working-class characters, the narrative voice tends to satirize Laura's privilege by pretending she has transcended class or that she remains in control of situations in which she plays no significant role. When the other Sheridans try to persuade Laura not to think about Scott's death, the narrator takes their side and suggests that Laura’s concern for the poor is childish and unnecessary.

The Narrator Quotes in The Garden Party

The The Garden Party quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator or refer to The Narrator . 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

And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
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:

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:

The band struck up; the hired waiters ran from the house to the marquee. Wherever you looked there were couples strolling, bending to the flowers, greeting, moving on over the lawn. They were like bright birds that had alighted in the Sheridans' garden for this one afternoon, on their way to—where? Ah, what happiness it is to be with people who all are happy, to press hands, press cheeks, smile into eyes.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

And the perfect afternoon slowly ripened, slowly faded, slowly its petals closed.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 48
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:
Get the entire The Garden Party LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Garden Party PDF

The Narrator Character Timeline in The Garden Party

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator 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
Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Beauty, Refinement and Detachment Theme Icon
...go somewhere more obvious, where it can “give you a bang slap in the eye.” The narrator tells readers that Laura “did quite follow” the workmen; she suggests the corner of the... (full context)
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Beauty, Refinement and Detachment Theme Icon
Childhood, Family and Independence Theme Icon
The narrator answers her own question: “they must.” The workmen have already started assembling the marquee, and... (full context)
Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Childhood, Family and Independence Theme Icon
...finds the suggestion that they cancel it for the Scotts’ sake “absurd” and “extravagant,” and the narrator explains why: the lane of decrepit cottages at the bottom of the hill, just across... (full context)
Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Beauty, Refinement and Detachment Theme Icon
Childhood, Family and Independence Theme Icon
...complains that Laura wanted to stop the party. Mr. Sheridan laments the tragic accident, which the narrator finds “tactless;” Mrs. Sheridan has nothing to say. Then, she has “one of her brilliant... (full context)
Empathy, Understanding, and Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Beauty, Refinement and Detachment Theme Icon
Childhood, Family and Independence Theme Icon
...She begins, “isn’t life—”, but cannot bring herself to finish the idea. But “no matter,” the narrator tells us, “he quite understood.” The story ends with Laurie’s reply: “isn’t it, darling?” (full context)