Marxism in the Garden Party Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  2093 Words
Date:  2022-05-16

The garden party is a book written in the early twentieth century by Katherine Mansfield. It is about a number of ladies from the wealthy Sheridan family who were to have a garden party, and preparations were being made for this. On the same day, a man died in their neighborhood from an accident. In the book, the emotional response to the news of death is explored. Different people react differently for various reasons (Mansfield n.p).

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The society that is represented in this short story shows a lot of characteristics that were presented in Karl Marx theory. The Marxist theory consisted of three ideas: economic and political programs, a historical theory and philosophy. In this theory, the economic structure of society consists of a sum of definite relations that are indispensable and not dependent on the will of a person (All about philosophy). These are relations to do with being productive and they are in line with a given stage of development of material forces of production. The economic structure of society is the foundation upon which the political and legal structures are based. The political, social and intellectual processes of life are mostly determined by the mode of production in the material life.

From this explanation of the basics of life, Karl Marx made an effort to describe what society therefore is. Marxism described the idea of alienation in the society which is born of the need for individuals to serve their own means (McLellan and Chambre). Individuals make an effort to amass wealth that they need and plenty of surpluses since everyone is only concerned with themselves. This leads to stratification of the society into classes, from the wealthy to the poor. Then there is the development of competition in the economy, which led to many traits of exploitation of the weak by the strong. This would inevitably lead to a class struggle and bitterness between the members of the different social classes (McLellan and Chambre n.p).

The society that was described in The Garden Party depicted most of these characteristics of a society which were described by Karl Marx. This is shown in the way economic activities are carried out and the interactions between various members of society.

First, Marxism is seen in the way labor is divided. On the morning of the day that the garden party was to be held, there were preparations being done in the garden. Some individuals came to assist with this, including putting up a marquee. As it is elaborated, these are not individuals of mighty means but are instead lowly people. They belong to a lesser class than the ladies of the Sheridan family. The high-class individuals were not among the members of society who worked (Farah n.p). The members of society who belonged to the working class were in lower strata of the social classes. This division of labor was a main characteristic of the Marxist theory. According to his theory, the rich never do any work but they supervise the work done by the rest of society (McLellan and Chambre n.p). In many instances, the work is usually in service to the wealthy members of society. This is well seen in the fact that the men who were helping with the preparation of the garden were working for the rich family. That was the way through which the working class earned a living. The sustenance of these people who were not very high in the social classification depended directly on those who were in the higher social classes. The high-class run the society in an economic way since they are the ones who provided jobs and income for the rest of society. This made the difference between the various classes of society even more marked. The members of the high-class of society were not involved in working. They instead employed the lower ranking people to do work for them, from which they would earn a wage (McLellan and Chambre n.p).

The oversight of the work that was being done by the men who came to put up the marquee was also a symbol of segregation within the society. During the time of Karl Marx, the society was much masculinized. The men were considered to be higher ranked than women in most instances (McLellan and Chambre n.p). The situation presented in this short story however represents a woman being called upon to oversee the work that is being done by men. Moreover, the woman is quite a young lady. This shows the vast difference in rank between the workers and their overseer. The lady had to be at a much higher society class than the men in order for her to be able to exert her authority over them (Kaya n.p). For people of an equal status, the women would never have been able to oversee work that was being done by men. It would rather be the opposite of this. This makes it apparent that there was a division in society, whereby some people were of higher status than others. This was the biggest premise of the Marxist theory. The presence of social demarcations between people who are differently enabled, and the role of the lowly ones in providing service to the privileged ones (McLellan and Chambre n.p). There was an aspect of exploitation of the poor members of society for the gin of the affluent people in Marxist theory. This is however not very prominently seen in this story, since there doesn't seem to be constraint in the working relationship demonstrated at the start of the story

Another element that showed the societal segregation was the geographical distribution of the homes of the various members of society. The high-class members of society as exemplified by the Sheridan family lived at an elevated place geographically, while the rest of the members of society lived in cottages which were at the lowlands (Mansfield n.p). This marked difference in living environments was symbolic of the way society was. The rich lived apart from the poor, and they seemed to live at an area that was seemingly much better than where the poorer members of society lived. This is represented in the Marxist theory as segregation of individuals based on economic capacity. According to the Marxist theory, economic capacity was the main factor that created rifts between various groups of people in society (McLellan and Chambre n.p). The rich are defined and set apart from the poor. The same economical divide also contributes a lot to the cultural and political makeup in a society. This is because the stratification that is established upon economic basis determines the social interactions between individuals, and the general cultural activities of the society (McLellan and Chambre n.p). The political system also had to have the economic divide in mind. In this system, the rich were much more influential than those who were of lowly status. Therefore the wealthier people were mostly involved in the ruling of the community in the political arena (McLellan and Chambre). In spite of the fact that there is not much of a political theme in this short story, the general Marxist theory seems to be in play. The book shows a good representation of what most societies were like during the times of Karl Marx, and after his era when his influence was still marked. This may be as a result of the fact that it was written in the context of such a time

The conversations that are seen in the story also reveals a very marked difference between the people who are high-class and those who are low class. At the time of Karl Marx, the higher class individuals attended school and were therefore well educated. This was not the case for the others in society who were not of mighty means. The poor members of society speak in English that is not very refined. It was the broken kind of English that was predominantly used in communication at the time (McLellan and Chambre n.p). The English that is spoken by the members of the Sheridan family in giving instructions to the workers who came to help to prepare for the garden party, as well as the language they generally use in communication with each other is very well refined. This is yet another symbol of the great rift between the different members of society. The difference in language was also a cause for further rifts setting in between people in society. The refinement in the mode of communication between the high-class members of society sets them apart from those others who are not as capable of expressing themselves in a similarly refined manner. This creates a great barrier to mixing of these factions of society, unless a situation that necessitates the mixing comes up. This would thus lead to interactions between the high-class and working class in contexts of work (McLellan and Chambre n.p). Rarely were the interactions out of a conscious decision to reach out. However as seen in the book, Laura goes to the home of a lowly person to send condolences on the death of a member of that home. This kind of interaction was not very common, and this would explain why her decision to go and visit those poor people was received with so much surprise from her own family members (Kaya n.p).

According to Karl Marx, a capitalist mindset which led to the development of rifts between members of society also led to alienation (McLellan and Chambre n.p). The alienation was mostly experienced b the higher class members. This is because the working class and the poor members of society were in greater numbers. They also had many factors bringing them together. These included common emotions that were stirred by being on the disadvantaged side of the divide in society. Many of them also bonded over feelings of oppression from the way the society was ordered. The alienation of the rich is seen from the conversation Laura had with her mother. After Laura heard the news of the death of an individual just near their home, she approached her mother saying that they couldn't possibly have the garden party under those circumstances. Her mother responded by saying that It was only by chance that they learnt of the death on that day. In any other circumstances, they might not have heard about it (Mansfield n.p). Laura's mother was trying to explain to her that it was of no use to alter her schedules because of news that she had just got, yet many times in the past a similar event may have happened and she continued her activities since she knew nothing about it. This shows clearly how withdrawn the Sheridans were from the society right around them (Kaya n.p). The people who lived in the environment of the Sheridan were not as wealthy and affluent as themselves. They were poor people who worked and lived in small cottages. As Laura's mother said, it was only by chance that they heard the news of the death of a young man who lived just nearby. This makes it clear that in other situations, great events such as these still happen around them but they remain ignorant about them. This could be due to the fact that the social segregation did not allow for the free mixing and conversation between the rich and the poor (Kaya). Events that occurred to those who were not in the same social class as the Sheridan thus had no place in the ears of members of a different social class, regardless of how tragic.

The same alienation is also seen in the response to Laura's visit to the house of the lady who lost her son to the accident in that morning. There is obvious difficulty in Laura's attempt to be with the other mourners. Upon her arrival at the house, she is greeted with much aloofness and asked to wait in order to be shown to the bereaved. Even upon being led to the mother of the man who was involved in an accident, she is so uncomfortable, she contemplates leaving without waiting for her basket to be emptied and given back to her (Mansfield n.p). This is most likely because she has done something that I not frequently done in her society. She has come out of her high place at the top of a hill and gone to meet...

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