Psychoanalysis in the Garden Party

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Sarah Moutray

Psychoanalysis in The Garden Party
In “The Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield, the protagonist Laura is followed as she prepares for a Garden Party that has evidently taken a lot of time and preparation. However, her pleasant planning of the party is interrupted by the death of an unknown neighbor. Respectfully, Laura at first wants to cancel the party, but through her mother and sister’s persuasion, she allows the party to go on. After the party, she takes leftovers to the family of the deceased and is introduced to notion of death. This short story demonstrates certain Lacanian ideas in psychoanalysis including “the mirror stage,” the idea of “Eden” and the repression of true self. The purpose of this paper is to analyze these three ideas and describe their meaning in relation to Laura in “The Garden Party.” In “The Garden Party,” Laura’s view of her perfect world is shattered when she is first introduced to death. It is through this introduction that she realizes she has been suppressed by her mother and her society. In this case, when Laura enters the “Symbolic Order” she does indeed lose her old self, but contrary to Lacan’s theories, she also gains freedom from her restraints in becoming acquainted with her true self which is her innate goodness. In one of the first scenes portrayed, Laura talks with some workmen about where to place the marquee for the party. This first scene in placing the marquee is a convenient foil to show Laura’s own decision about her placement in society. In this scene, Laura’s confusion about herself and place in society is very evident. She tries very hard to be like her mother in high class society, but she finds that it doesn’t suit her very well. “’Good morning,’ she said, copying her mother’s voice. But that sounded so fearfully affected that she was ashamed...” (Mansfield 2) is a good indicator that while Laura tries to be like her mother, she finds it unsavory in herself. Laura also laments her social...
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