The garden-party British literature contains a wide range of creative developments that focused on social concerns prevalent in English society at a particular duration. Take, as an example, literary works written in the 20th century, a period marked in English society as a transition period, where brand-new “liberties” were developed and executed in the society. Amongst the questionable social problems that ended up being the focus of these literary works are the styles of prejudice and ultimately, empowerment, amongst ladies.
These styles, bias and empowerments amongst ladies, although contradictory to each other, are in fact related to each other.
The style of bias of society against women is a typical, albeit not faced, social issue in English society prior to the advancement of literary works in the 20th century. However, when 19th and 20th centuries became shift durations in changing the nature of English society, a transition from prejudice to empowerment likewise took place.
During the 20th century, writers like Katharine Mansfield and James Joyce recognized this modification occurring gradually in their society; for this reason, their literary works demonstrated ladies’s modification from being subservient to becoming empowered and courageous to go against bias that has always caused their subservience to the predominantly male English society.
By supplying a comparative analysis of the short stories “Eveline” by James Joyce and “The garden-party” by Katharine Mansfield, both authors demonstrated the shift of ladies assuming an empowered perspective from their previously subservient role as simple female members within their family and usually, the English society.
The analysis contained herein is two-fold. The first analysis discusses the theme of shift from bias to empowerment among the females characters of the stories. The second analysis, on the other hand, centers on the actions that the females characters showed in each story.
Eveline in Joyce’s short story demonstrated true empowerment by consciously choosing to lead her life the way she wanted it, freeing herself from the dictates of the ‘men’ in her life—her brothers, her father, and her secret lover, Frank. Laura in “The garden-party,” meanwhile, achieved empowerment towards the last part of the story, having realized the hypocrisy and discrimination her family demonstrated against another family. However, the level of empowerment she achieved was not the same as Eveline’s; Laura’s empowerment was still in the process of developing from empowerment to action.
These different levels of empowerment created the difference between the two female protagonists of Joyce and Mansfield’s stories. In the first story, “The garden-party,” Mansfield was able to demonstrate the theme of prejudice through two sectors in the British society: the females and the poor. As shown in the story, female prejudice was reflected in Laura’s thoughts, as she compared the young gardener-helpers from the young men she went out with, preferring the former from the latter because of their “easy” and natural attitude towards her.
This comparison between the easy-going and rigid manner of males in Laura’s society demonstrated how, from Laura’s eyes, her choices seemed limited, as she was dictated by her family and society to choose only males who belong to the upper social class, regardless of whether she likes the man or not. In effect, Laura’s conscious preference of the easy-going males working in the garden of her family’s home was her way of expressing herself freely, if not restrained by the norms and bounds her family and society put into her.
Society’s norms proved itself to be “silly,” in the same way that Laura assessed the “boys she danced with” as “silly. ” By identifying the boys she danced with as “silly,” she was referring to the “silly” norms that society and her family imposed on her, giving her no choice to choose the man who she will willingly go out with. The transition from prejudice to empowerment came full circle at the end of the story, wherein Laura realized the hypocrisy that dwelled within the family she lived with and the society she interacted with.
Although her mother felt sorry for the family who mourned the death of a young man, Laura realized that pretenses were put up after the garden-party, wherein carelessness was immediately replaced with care and sensitivity to individuals whom they considered as “people of that class,” referring to the poverty of the family whom her mother sought to help, albeit too late and hypocritically. After witnessing the death of the poor young man, Laura eventually achieved empowerment, realizing the hypocrisy of her own class and the truth behind the beautiful garden parties that her family hosted.
Laura’s realization, although lacks action from her part, was a demonstration of her empowerment as a free-thinking individual, no longer imprisoned by the prejudice put against the women and the poor in the British society. Eveline, as the main character of Joyce’s short story, demonstrated at a greater degree the empowerment she received, from being a woman imprisoned in the wants of the men in her life, to finally achieving self-discovery and –realization as an individual and a woman. Prejudice was present in “Eveline” in the form of the protagonist’s father and lover.
Through the character of Eveline’s father, her subservience became more transparent, wherein Eveline lived the life of an obedient and unquestioning daughter, despite the apparent dislike and unfairness of treatment her father had given her unfailingly: “[h]e said she used to squander the money, that she had no head, that he wasn’t going to give her his hard-earned money to throw about the streets…” This verbal and emotional abuse to Eveline showed the expectation of subservience from her, which his father took advantage because of his role in the family and the expectations of the society they lived in.
This illustration of subservience was furthered by Eveline’s dependence on Frank to provide her the escape she needed to free herself from the verbal and emotional abuses she received from her father. However, it was through Frank that she eventually achieved empowerment, realizing that Frank was not the vehicle of her independence; rather, she herself will be the agent of change within her. Her decision to stay behind and not escape the life she had for Buenos Aires and Frank, Eveline showed her courage and resoluteness by facing her oppressors, her society and her father.
Empowerment was finally borne out of discrimination, and even though the story ended irresolutely, Eveline’s free-thinking stance in the end gave readers the hope that indeed, she had finally achieved self-realization and empowerment. The theme of empowerment is further developed by assessing the level of empowerment achieved by Laura and Eveline. In Mansfield’s story, Laura’s achievement of empowerment was limited to the level of free-thinking, wherein she allowed herself to decide and reflect on the realities she experienced and witnessed, despite the displays of hypocrisy and prejudice within her family and class society.
Although the level of empowerment Laura achieved did not prompt her to commit a radical action, the open-ended short story posed hope for her to commit just that—that, in realizing the true meaning of “life,” she will eventually take action to eventually destroy the prejudice against women like her and the poor. Eveline demonstrated a greater level of empowerment between her and Laura, primarily because she was able to decide and take action for herself when she decided not to escape her subservience by escaping to Buenos Aires with Frank.
The great realization and empowerment that Eveline experienced was the fact that she did not need another man to help her escape the “prison” that was her subservience to her father, as well as her growing dependence on Frank. Thus, by not giving Frank any “sign of love or farewell or recognition,” Eveline was in effect also gathering courage to stand up against the verbal and emotional abuses of her father, not to mention returning to her society and facing the criticism and prejudice that she could potentially receive from other people.