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The Theme of Death in The Garden Party

The Theme of Death in The Garden Party

Katherine Mansfield explores profoundly the world of death and its impact on a person in her short story, “The Garden Party.”

Enter the Sheridans, a wealthy, high-class family who live in England. They are your everyday rich snobs who think themselves better than the common person. There is, however, one person who is quite unlike her family, and that is Laura Sheridan.

Laura started off in a bubble, and has lived in it all her life. She has been protected from the real world, so she has never experienced the effects of betrayal, poverty, or labor, let alone death, which she does get to experience, by the end of the story. Laura meets face to face with death, and the results of it will change her look on life forever. It is a wonder she ever had a chance to be a caring, sensitive person with a sibling like Jose. Jose is an unfeeling, heartless and self-absorbed person who is completely clueless to those around her who don’t have lots of money or expensive assets. She sings songs with mock passion:

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!

This is the song that Jose sings before the garden party is held. It’s ironic how she can sing a song about life being weary, a tear-a sigh when she cannot-could not, even remotely relate to ever being in the position of being weary. She is singing about something that she doesn’t understand, something she can’t feel. She can’t sing it with any real compassion, because she has none. This shows when she breaks into a brilliant smile at the end of the song, which is supposed to be full of sadness. This is what gives the effect of…

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… She knows her hat is grossly inappropriate. It brags to these poor people that she is wealthy and they are not. It is a party hat, but also it is everything Laura was. It represents her narrow-minded upbringing, such as the way she was taught to treat others of “lower class” and it represents a person who doesn’t care much for the well being of others. “Forgive my hat” is truly the heart of this story.

When Laura sobs, “Isn’t life, isn’t life-” she is trying to explain how she feels now about life, how the experience of seeing the dead affected her. She can’t put it into words though, because it was a feeling that she experienced-an understanding. It could be concluded that she had the words all along, only she had them mixed up. What Laura was really trying to say, is “life isn’t.” That is the effect Mansfield wished to create, and she succeeded beautifully at it.

Sympathy for Pip in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Sympathy for Pip in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations is a novel in which each character is a subject of either sympathy or scorn. Charles Dickens implies through his use of guilt and suffering that Pip is a subject of sympathy. Frazier Russell wrote that in Great Expectations “the protagonist (through his suffering and disappointment), learns to accept his station in life.”( Also through Pip’s suffering comes the sympathy the reader feels for him. The majority of the suffering Pip is subject to in the novel is a result of the guilt he feels. As a child he suffers under an unfair burden of guilt placed on him by his sister. He also feels guilty because of his association with criminals and criminal activity throughout his life. During the second part of the novel, Pip falls from innocence into snobbery. Because of the double narrative Dickens chose to employ, the reader never loses sympathy for Pip. His final redemption comes when he is able to see his faults and recognize that he is guilty of snobbery.

As a child, Pip is pitied by the reader because of his situation as the younger brother of

Mrs. Joe, by whom he is constantly tormented. Mrs. Joe’s treatment of Pip is not only

unjust, but it influences Pip’s view of himself and establishes in him a sense of guilt for

merely existing. Pip is constantly feeling guilty and suffering because he is led to believe

that his life causes nothing but grief and evil to those around him. Mrs. Joe uses threats

of punishment and accusations of ingratitude to keep Pip silent and well-behaved: ” ‘I tell

you what, young fellow,’ said she, ‘I didn’t bring you …

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…London: Macmillan, 1966.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. New York: Signet Classic, 1961.

French, A.L. “Old Pip: The Ending of Great Expectations.” Essays in Criticism__, no.__.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 357- 360.

Moynahan, Julian. “The Hero’s Guilt: The Case of Great Expectations.” Discussions of Charles Dickens, 82-92. William R. Clark, ed. Boston: D.C. Heath

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