Compare the power structures and their impact/effect on the lives of young women in "The Garden Party" and "The Voice from the Wall."
Power structures can apply their will over others. Power structures get things going, defeating potential obstruction with the end goal to accomplish wanted outcomes. Katherine Mansfield, in The Garden Party, highlights the popular false social classes and power, instilled to her main character Laura, who is an upper-class girl of the Victorian society. The education barred women regarding their outlook on life. Laura in the story is shielded from life's realities such as poverty, which is presented as experiences outside the privileged social classes. The education system leaves her unprepared for life and renders her confused (Mansfield, 2018). The Voice from the Wall is the tale of an immigrant mother who is emotionally detached from her loved ones due to language barriers. Ying-Ying concerns are never heard nor appreciated by her husband who never considers her view of things. Ying- Ying value her beliefs and superstitions and these are passed on to her daughter Lena, who yields to all her mother's warnings. The paper aims at comparing how the power structures impact the lives of the young women in "The Garden Party" and "The Voice from the wall."
The Garden Party
The Garden Party provides a psychosocial analysis of its main character Laura surrounding the different elements of the Victorian Education and the effects the education system had towards the protagonist's psychology. The author brings out the effects of being out of touch with reality as well as the tragedies brought about by the weaker members of the society. Laura has passed through the biased educational system which makes her feel estranged from her social circle as well her inability to interact with people outside her social circle, who on a day to day basis deal with the harsh realities of life. The power structures in the society have condemned Laura to feelings of insecurity and uncertainty which condemns her to live with an unstable mind in an unstable world (Mansfield, 2018).
Laura, one of Sheridan's children enjoyed all the good in life due to the affluence in her family. The story begins in an optimistic mood and a beautiful garden party that is thrown in their house, situated at a hill. The place is endowed with beautiful flowers, lovely things to eat and wear. This was her first grown-up party where she was expected to implement all that was taught in school. It was a rule with the Victorian woman to practice what they learned, display spectacle arrangement of flowers and parties, nurture their children into socially acceptable human beings and finally give orders to their servants. Consequently, Laura, like any other Victorian woman was trained in how to be a perfect wife, housekeeper, and mother. She had finally been molded into the socially prescribed shape. Laura was conditioned to carry the patriarchal mindset; think like a man, identify with their views, internalize their values and recognize them as the dominant group in the society. Now Laura had the turn to become an emasculated woman who followed into the footsteps of those before her and protects patriarchy (Mansfield, 2018).
Knowledge of Self
The story highlights Laura's journey of losing to finding herself. As the story begins, the author paints a picture of Laura trying to emulate her mother while giving a few instructions to the servants planning the party. Mrs. Sheridan was considered in control and Laura wanted to be more like her. However, while trying to implement the authority descending from her mother, she losses self. Laura tries to engage a group of woman tasked with putting up a marquee whom she greets "Good Morning." However, Laura mimics her mother's voice, but hers is a tone of fear and shame. The emotions in her tone are an explicit ellipsis that she recognizes herself and does not embrace speaking in someone else's voice. The women fail in paying attention to her suggestions. Laura realizes that she has been reduced to an idle onlooker and now believes that her power over the servants is a sham and the realization hurts her feelings (Mansfield, 2018).
Conversely, despite the discouragement from the incident, Laura gains a new view of life. She gets insights on how people of lower power and economic structures get to embrace their true selves. She decides to address the workers with her "proper" voice which satisfies her being. One of the workmen gave her a warm self that aids Laura in discovering her real self that was once repressed by the education and societal status. The likability among the workers was also reflected in the language they used as they democratically referred to each other as "matey." The true self, which has always been hidden motivates her to get friendly with the workmen, whom she realizes was friendlier than the "silly boys" at her school. She goes to the extent of apologizing for the excess of the party (Mansfield, 2018).
Knowledge of Social Class
Laura decides to open up to the external world and unlearn all knowledge she embraced on class distinction. She embarks on a journey to find and practice her own set of values which was bound to bring about a sense of uncertainty and belonging. Laura has been a sensitive girl since her childhood, and this does not change after she embraces the external world. Laura once considered hiding a piece of bread and butter because taking the piece in front of the workers is a manifestation of "stupid conventions." She embarks on becoming a better version of herself and builds hopes of a class free of irrational class distinctions. She yearns to bridge the divide between her subordinates and herself and actualizing these fantasies (Mansfield, 2018).
The Voice from the wall
The power structure that exists in the story is between a mother and a daughter. Lena has been taught by her mother Ying-Ying to prepare for the worst things that can happen in her life. This is primarily due to her mother's twisted understanding of reality or her inability to fit and understand the language and culture of the Americans. Lena also believes that terrible things will happen to her if she does not heed to her mother's instructions and avoid danger. Ying-Ying had a considerable influence on her daughter's life (Tan, 2016).
Paranoia and Anxiety
There is an apparent conflict between Lena and Ying-Ying. Lena, an ordinary girl, living in America has to deal with her mom endless superstitions and warnings. Ying-Ying and Lena have a distant relationship which is primarily built upon fear. They also share a common belief that the worst is bound to happen. They, however, do not express their concerns and emotions. Ying-Ying fails to confide in her daughter after she loses her baby despite both sharing in the grief.
Consequently, Lena lives in Paranoia as she expects the worst to befall her. In the story, the mother warns Lena about the basement and barricades the door to protect her child from entering the "doomed" room. The mother warns Lena that dangerous things await her in the basement. She, however, ignores all the warnings, and her mother's predictions are fulfilled. Lena also believes that her mother's superstitions come to live after she predicted the loss of her baby. She has also witnessed her mother rearrange the house to fit into her beliefs. These superstitions rub off on Lena who starts eavesdropping on her neighbor and questioning whether her life was better or worse than other people. This act is a clear depiction of the daughter acting out with her plethora of superstitions. However, I believe that the mother was too emotionally and psychologically fatigued to see the damage she was inflicting on her daughter (Tan, 2016).
Lena's parents had a relationship built on fear and misunderstandings. They had flaws in their marriage which they never worked on for years. This behavior was later transferred to Lena's and Harold's marriage. There were so many hidden problems in Lena's marriage that she was unable to recognize. Lena's parents were afraid of confronting their troubles. They resulted in perfecting the art of miscommunication with her father putting words in Ying-Yang's mouth and failing to understand what she was communicating across. This was the case when Ying-Yang was suffering from depression and laid on the bed like a dead person only her father to claim that "she was just tired." He is always trying to lessen the situation between the two, yet he had a "worried face." Ying-Ying, on the other hand, loves the status quo and fears speaking out her mind. She loves the language barrier between them which leaves a lot of things unspoken. A woman determined to communicate with her husband would have taken lessons in the language that is understood by all. She allows the husband to shove words into her mouth and releases her frustrations in the superstitions.
A good example is when Ying-Ying rearranges her house while in truth, she was afraid of having a baby that she predicted to lose. However, her fears were never articulated. When Ying-Ying visits her daughters marital home, she candidly points out the problems her marriage and wishes that Lena would not remain blind to such problems (Tan, 2016).
Power structures can place the will over different people. This will can yield to either positive or negative results as depicted in the stories. Power is identified by the position or status of a person. Leadership has impacted both Laura's and Lena's lives negatively, but Laura chooses to focus on the positive lessons. I resonate more with Lena's case. Growing up, my mother had her weird superstitions to get me to do things. She would often get me to eat my vegetables by narrating to me scary stories of monsters that were out to get me if I failed to eat them. I also had the basement experience where my mother protected me from getting hurt by the different tools in the basement. However, unlike Lena, my mother was gracious enough to refute the superstitions as just a mother who loves her child enough to protect her from danger.
Mansfield, K. (2018). The garden party. Aeterna Classics.
Tan, A. (2016). Le Joy Luck Club. Editions Charleston.
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