Fantasy Worlds in The Garden Party and Her First Ball by Katherine Mansfield

1460 Words 6 Pages
In the short stories ‘The Garden Party’ and ‘Her First Ball’, both written by the well-known New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield, the importance of detail lies in several fields. As Mansfield herself states, “there is an indefinite value and delight in detail” and this is shown constantly as she uses it much effectively to portray themes, provide us with a contrast between the two different settings and also paint us a clear picture of the protagonists’ fantasy worlds.

Mansfield shows and doesn’t tell. In both the short stories, she plunges you straight into the imaginative and personified worlds of the protagonists and then the plot follows. The detailed description of the “perfect day for a garden-party” depicts Laura’s
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Simple common details including “Meg’s tuberoses, Jose’s long loop of amber, Laura’s little dark head…” are seen by her as most charming and extraordinary. Unmistakably, Mansfield is constructing a ‘fairy land’ and she does it extraordinarily well as we see it through Leila’s childish eyes.

As well as in the description of the protagonists’ joyous anticipation and childish fantasies, detail is used to illustrate two different settings in each story. The contrast is between upper class and lower class in The Garden Party and is achieved by describing both the Sheridans’ house and the Carters’ in detail. The Sheridans are portrayed as living in a grand, luxurious residence with the air that blows past being “windless and warm”, while the Carters’ live down a “gloomy passage” in a lane that is “smoky and dark.” “Great plumes of silvery smoke uncurled the Sheridans’ chimney”, while “the very smoke coming out of their (Carters’) chimneys was poverty-stricken.” A beautiful “green-baize door led to the kitchen regions” of the Sheridans’, while the Carters’ cooked their food in a “wretched low kitchen.” The Sheridans’ house has a lily lawn, tennis courts and a grand piano, while the Carters’ “poky little hole” is not at all attractive. This amount of fine detail takes us through
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