BEYOND THE BAYOU by Kate Chopin and THE GARDEN PARTY by Katherine Mansfield are two remarkable short stories in the annals of English Literature. Both narratives delve into post-war traumas, psychological conflicts, the hollowness of society, class conflicts, racism, interior monologues, and employ a nonlinear storytelling technique, which bestows them with a modernist approach and tone.
BEYOND THE BAYOU and THE GARDEN PARTY share some intriguing similarities, despite being written with children in mind. Both stories touch upon themes that resonate with readers of all ages, subtly concealed behind the narrative clouds. One common thread is the exploration of class conflicts in society.
Class Conflicts in "Beyond the Bayou"
In BEYOND THE BAYOU, we encounter Jaqueline, also known as La Folle, a woman considered "mad" by society. She shares a unique bond with Cheri, and when Cheri sustains an injury, Jaqueline bravely crosses the bayou, overcoming her fears. The story highlights the physical and psychological distance between white and black, rich and poor people, underscoring the societal disparities of the time.
Class Conflicts in "The Garden Party"
THE GARDEN PARTY introduces us to the Sheridan family, privileged and content in their world under the "bright blue sky." However, their neighbors, who live in poverty, are considered socially inferior. When a tragic incident occurs in the poor neighborhood, Laura, one of the Sheridan daughters, is deeply affected and urges her mother to stop the garden party. Her mother's dismissive response showcases the indifference of the privileged class towards the less fortunate.
Cheri and Laura, characters from each story, symbolize innocence, transcending the class and racial discriminatory mentality that surrounds them. They represent victimized children exposed to the hurtful words of the grown-ups, exposing the vulnerability of the young to societal prejudices.
While both stories share common ground in addressing class conflicts, they differ significantly in their protagonists and resolutions.
Jaqueline's Triumph in "Beyond the Bayou"
In BEYOND THE BAYOU, the central figure is Jaqueline, a poor and unconventional black woman. Despite the challenges she faces, the story concludes with her witnessing the sunrise, symbolizing hope and newfound positivity in her life. The readers feel a sense of happiness, as Jaqueline finds a fresh start.
Laura's Disillusionment in "The Garden Party"
Conversely, THE GARDEN PARTY follows Laura, a character living in a "Barbie world," shielded from harsh realities by her privileged status. However, when confronted with class conflicts and the death of a poor neighbor, she experiences a profound disillusionment, culminating in tearful despair. Her final stammering words, "isn't life," resonate with the rawness of her emotions.
Despite the kinder nature of P'tit Maître's family compared to the Sheridans, Laura and her siblings lack the freedom to visit their less fortunate neighbors, highlighting the strict social boundaries that segregate the privileged from the underprivileged.
A Shared Journey of Self-Discovery
At their core, both stories revolve around the theme of self-discovery, uniting Laura and La Folle despite their contrasting backgrounds. The incidents that shape their respective narratives provide them with new perspectives on life, converging their journeys into one shared experience.
BEYOND THE BAYOU and THE GARDEN PARTY stand as captivating reflections of the human condition, exploring the depths of societal complexities and individual growth. Despite the disparities in their characters and settings, both stories strike a chord with readers, inspiring empathy and introspection. In these timeless tales, we discover the profound truths that connect us all as human beings, making them enduring pieces of literature in the landscape of English literary history.