Mansfield’s “The Garden Party” and Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” Essay (Critical Writing)

Mansfield’s “The Garden Party” and Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” Essay (Critical Writing)


Write what you know. It is a commonly heard piece of advice offered to writers of every genre, together with poetry, and illustrates the significance of understanding context so as to understand a given work. For most writers, whether they intend to observe this advice or not, the follow of writing what they know includes the tendency to include autobiographical materials within the text of their work once more emphasizing the importance of context.

This occurs to higher or lesser extent in most types of writing, but is perhaps most evident in poetry where language is condensed and placed into imagery significant to the author. Poets such as Sylvia Plath are well-known for his or her autobiographical content as poetry grew to become a kind of remedy for the poet and reflected the mind-set at the time of writing. Plath struggled with melancholy her complete life, eventually succeeding in committing suicide.

This tendency to incorporate biographical data throughout the text can additionally be obvious in different genres, such because the short story as seen within the work of Katherine Mansfield. Mansfield, who skilled the shift from the Victorian period to the Modern within the latter portion of the nineteenth century and early 20th century, used her writing as an outlet for thoughts and emotions that weren’t acceptable within her upper-class society. In the poems “The Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield and “Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath, one can discover numerous elements of autobiography that helped to shape the sometimes surprisingly similar means in which these writers approached the world.

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Katherine Mansfield was the daughter of an upper-middle-class businessman in New Zealand which is demonstrated through her poetry. In “The Garden Party”, Mansfield tells the story of a young woman as she helps her household prepare for a special garden celebration. The cause for the celebration is never given although the small print include the location of a marquee, a tremendous number of lilies and a band of musicians and a hint is supplied that maybe it’s a yearly occasion as Laura’s mom tells her, “I’m determined to go away every little thing to you children this year” (59). These particulars reveal components of the author’s personal life as she grew up in a few of the extra prosperous homes of New Zealand and was accustomed to this sort of life-style.

Social expectations are proven as the older ladies are engaged in actions designed to make them look nice whereas Laura, presumably youthful, is sent out to deal with the get together details.

“Meg could not probably go and supervise the boys. She had washed her hair earlier than breakfast, and she sat ingesting her espresso in a green turban, with a dark wet curl stamped on each cheek. Jose, the butterfly, at all times came down in a silk petticoat and a kimono jacket” (59-60). The other feminine characters are shown as notably unconcerned with the realities of life, not even capable of occupying their time with the frivolity of get together decorations of their all-consuming curiosity in their very own look. As is seen in the poem, this shallowness, an inherent side of the society Mansfield knew as a baby, is contrasted against the depth of her primary character.

When Laura interacts with the workmen, she demonstrates a capability to transcend class distinctions that aren’t shared by her family. As she interacted with the workmen, noticing the best way in which they attempted to make her feel extra comfortable and their concern for things such because the odor of lavender, she thought, “It’s all the fault, she determined, because the tall fellow drew something on the back of an envelope, something that was to be looped up or left to hang, of those absurd class distinctions. Well, for her half, she didn’t feel them” (62-63).

This is made extra apparent when she attempts to stop the party upon hearing of the death of the young carter.

“But we can’t possibly have a garden get together with a man dead just outside the front gate … And simply think of what the band would sound prefer to that poor woman” (71-72). The reaction of her household, though, reflects the everyday reactions of Mansfield’s society as Jose mechanically assumes the carter was drunk when the accident occurred and her mother is simply concerned that the accident might have happened in their own garden. This begins for instance the kinds of constraints and confusions Mansfield herself had to deal with as she realized her natural sensibilities did not match with those of her social circle.

She intuitively understood the greater worth of people able to appreciating little things like the scent of lavender or the tragedy that occurred just down the hill as in comparison with the wealthier set. Her own family demonstrated the supply of the social problems in that they will have to have so many flowers that there isn’t room for all of them and are insensitive sufficient to send the leftovers of a homosexual get together all the method down to the widow with a toddler in a celebration gown and hat, utterly inappropriate apparel and fare for the occasions then occurring.

Sylvia Plath additionally struggled with problems with social norms as evidenced in her poem “Lady Lazarus.” Here she isn’t talking about her own dying solely just prevented by the intervention of “Herr Doktor”. The title itself illustrates that this is a poem about death and coming again to life as Lazarus is a character in the Bible who was useless and was introduced back to life on the command of Jesus. By titling the poem Lady Lazarus, Plath is indicating a girl has been brought back to life while the text of the poem signifies that this woman is Plath herself.

She is unable to keep herself out of the poem at all, openly referring to the reality that she is penning this poem following her third try at suicide, “This is Number Three. / What a trash / To annihilate each decade” (22-24). As she discusses the varied attempts she’s made on her life, she illustrates how the primary time she did it, it was an accident while the second and third were technique of feeling one thing. “I do it so it feels like hell. / I do it so it feels real. / I guess you would say I actually have a call” (46-48). Although she is speaking about herself and her personal experiences, she nevertheless manages to pull in the concept that her life, or death, is managed by males.

This is made clear as it is the men who continue to deliver her back to life, even when she doesn’t wish to be, as evidenced by her placing herself in the function of the Jew and the doctor within the position of the Nazi. In traces 73-78, Plath writes, “Ash, ash / You poke and stir / Flesh, bone, there is nothing there / A cake of soap / A marriage ceremony ring / A gold filling.” This is an allusion to the Nazi follow of burning Jews in large ovens throughout World War II. As if this weren’t unhealthy enough, the remains had been then used for making cleaning soap and the ashes were picked through for any possible valuables with concern in any respect for the former house owners of them.

Having investigated every poem for clues as to the context in which they have been written reveals some shocking similarities. They both use the idea of death to bring out their private issues of the social divide that they struggled within their actual lives. For Sylvia Plath, residing in the early period of the feminist motion, these points are displayed by method of the male/female divide. For Mansfield, residing just a little earlier when several of those social issues were starting to return to light, it was the issue of social class divisions. In both case, the problems were seen to separate society into two factions, one which gained all the benefits at the expense of the other.

In every poem, the language of the feminine character, the only character of observe within the textual content, is under no circumstances what could be expected from a feminine or a female writer. Mansfield explores the idea of stream of consciousness as she allows Laura’s ideas to convey the action of the story. This is effective in bringing to gentle the emotional context as Laura struggles along with her unacceptable ideas within her own society whilst she is conscious of that they are the right thoughts from a moralistic point of view. Plath equally employs language not anticipated of a lady in her description of her latest suicide try and the reasons for its failure, as she again falls beneath the control of the lads round her. Her language is stuffed with harsh criticism, angry rejections and cynical observations.

Both writers wrote during a interval by which women’s rights were significantly completely different than they’re for today’s trendy viewers, forcing us to learn diachronically the words they presented synchronically inside their environments. To their modern viewers, each of those writers would have been thought-about alarming, utilizing language that was considered to be extremely unladylike in an almost masculine tone, also thought of quite out of preserving with polite society.

For both writers, this was precisely the point. Both Mansfield and Plath had points with the established order and referred to as into question the assumptions of the elite and the established requirements. These standards are illustrated via their work as adherence to the dictates of the household, notably to the male members of the family, and obedience to the dictates of a society no matter private opinion, observation or common sense.

Today’s readers are unable to realize the identical sort of impression from these words due to the shifts in society that have taken place consequently. Today’s readers are more open-minded relating to the probabilities for girls, have a greater respect for the cognitive abilities of girls and are usually more uncovered to educated ladies with views and ideas relating to the best way society ought to function.

Women are more forceful about talking their minds, using language and language constructions that are no longer characterised as being primarily ‘male’ or ‘female’ however are as a substitute different types of discourse. The shock value of a girl talking out against the social order or the person girl struggling against the male constraints of her world has worn off with trendy conventions and venues during which girls take part in this sort of dialogue frequently. Thus, understanding the context by which these ladies wrote helps to inform the importance of the work concerned.


Through Plath’s poetry, there’s a clear conflict with the male-female relationship all couched inside strong autobiographical allusions and artfully communicated through linguistic tools. Almost all of her poems make some kind of reference to death, either because it has affected her, eluded her or threatens her. In addition, virtually all of her poems appear to counsel an adversarial male-female relationship during which the male is the dominating dictator wielding all power and the female is the unwilling topic of his undivided attention with only one means out of the state of affairs – death. Even when men specific concern or go to extremes to help her, she interprets this as having some sort of ulterior motives, similar to self-aggrandizement or scientific inquiry as is seen in “Lady Lazarus”.

Mansfield’s poems additionally struggle towards social norms as she first runs about the property more like a boy than a younger girl and then struggles to know the division between courses that by some means makes it okay for her household to continue with their backyard celebration despite being in straightforward hearing distance of the tragedy that struck a lower-class household. Like Plath, she consists of many autobiographical particulars within her poetry that serves to highlights the commonest characteristics of her society while her stream of consciousness language use serves to illustrate the dramatic distinction between expectations and precise female thought.

By examining the context of those two poems, the autobiographical and historic nature, it’s attainable to realize a higher understanding of the poems themselves.


Mansfield, Katherine. (1922). “The Garden Party.” The Garden Party and Other Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Plath, Sylvia. (2005). “Lady Lazarus.” Ariel. New York: Perennial Classics.

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