World War I brought about a revolution in the ideas of the masses. No longer would people of warring nations apathetically back their governments and armies. A concerted and public effort on the part of a literary circle turned soldiers attacked government propaganda. Questioning the glories of war and the need for nationalism, an ‘anti-war’ literary genre developed in the trenches of Europe during World War I. Gruesome imagery juxtaposed with daily events brought war to the pages of literature. Despite the formation of this new ‘anti-war’ literary genre, few popular poets chose to tackle the theme of war and its purpose. Of the few poets, only two, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, attempted in any sincere sense to convey reactions to war in the modernist style. Sassoon and Owen both write about the glorification of life and the detestability of war; however, while Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” depicts the universal perception of war, Sassoon’s “Base Details” more subjectively intellectualizes war through his melodramatic efforts. Owen’s objectivity creates an immortal image of war while Sassoon’s subjectivity makes his works anachronistic.
Sassoon’s and Owen’s backgrounds shed light on their respective styles as poets. Unlike Sassoon, Owen only posthumously achieved a level of stature in literature. Born in 1893,Wilfred Owen experienced an almost Dickensian childhood featuring a devout mother and “rough-hewn” father. Sent for his first year of education to a harshly disciplinarian academy, Owen learned to escape into the world of literature. He later joined the British army’s 5th Battalion and within a few months, fought on the battle front. During …
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…bitter criticism of his prose today. Owen, as a modernist poet, has stylistically far surpassed Sassoon in the eyes of critics and readers.
Cohen, Joseph. “Thee roles of Siegfried Sassoon”: Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. Jane Kosek. Vol. 12. Detroit: Gale Research Inc, 1995. 248-250.
Magill, Frank. “Wilfred Owen”: Rpt. in Critical Survey of poetry. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Vol. 5. New Jersey: Salem Press Inc, 1982. 2157 – 2163.
Murry, John M. “Mr. Sassoon’s War Verses.”: Rpt. in Poetry Criticisms. Ed. R. Cobden. Vol. 12. Detroit: Gale Research Inc. 1997. 75-84.
Murry, John M. “The Poet of War”: Rpt. in Poetry Criticisms. Ed. Carol Gaffke. Vol. 19. Detroit: Gale Research Inc. 1997. 705-707.
Parsons, I. M. “The Poems of Wilfred Owen”: Rpt. in Poetry Criticisms. Ed. Carol Gaffke. Vol. 19. Detroit: Gale Research Inc. 1997. 658.
What Laura Didn’t learn in The Garden Party
At the conclusion of The Garden Party, Laura is exposed to a side of life she has never encountered before, and comes to a sudden realization that “life and death may indeed coexist and that their common existence in one world may be beautiful” (Magalaner 101). Death is not necessarily associated with ugliness, she learns, but rather it is a natural process which she likens to sound, peaceful sleep. However, her ostensible epiphany is really only astonishment. Laura’s world revolves around the finer things in life, garden parties, and flowers, and she has been surrounded by beauty her whole life. Her social class is too ingrained in her for a momentary glimpse of the contrasting life of the lower class to really affect her (Sorkin 445).
Laura, the main character of The Garden Party, acts as the narrator and provides a link between the two contrasting forces of the story: the Sheridan’s world, filled with privilege and gaiety, and the Scott’s, one of hardship, death, and sorrow (Fullbrook 120). At the end of the story, Laura faces a dilemma as she has to cross the barrier between the two worlds, and face the death, mourning, and loss that her own class hides. The Garden Party represents Laura’s gradual progression in many ways: the search for her own identity, maturity, and passage into her ultimate journey down to Saunders Lane. Her advancement can be viewed in terms of her behavior before, during, and after the party. The opening paragraph of The Garden Party sets the tone for the rest of the story by “[suggesting] the unnaturalness of what is to occur in a ‘natural’ setting” (Magalaner 98). Mansfield’s imagery and diction reflect not only the Sheridan family’s wealth and elitism, but their attitude that they can “summon …
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… will not be affected much by her experience as she escapes back into her world.
Davis, Robert Murray. “The Unity of ‘The Garden Party.'” Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. II, No.1. Fall. Newberry College, 1964. 61-65.
Fullbrook, Kate. “Late Ficiton.” Katherine Mansfield. The Harvester Press, 1986. 86- 128.
Hankin, C.A. “Haunted by Death.” Katherine Mansfield and her Confessional Sotries. St. Martin’s Press, 1983. 235-247.
Magalaner, Marvin. “The Legacy of Fiction.” The Fiction of Katherine Mansfield. Southern Illinois University Press, 1971. 74-119.
Satterfield, Ben. ‘Irony in ‘The Garden Party.'” Ball State univesity Forum. Vol. XXIII, No. 1. Winter, 1982. 68-70
Sorkin, Adam J. “Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’: Style and Social Occasion.” Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. XXIV, No. 3. Autumn, 1978. 439-455.