The Sheridan’s cook is a nurturing figure, allowing Laura and one of her sisters to indulge in eating rich cream-puffs that have been delivered for the garden party just after they finish breakfast.
Laurie is Laura’s older brother and closest family member. After viewing the body of the laborer who died before the garden party, Laura is comforted by Laurie. The conclusion is ambiguous—it is not clear if either Laurie or Laura truly understand their own feelings at that moment.
Meg Sheridan, another one of Laura’s sisters, possesses a manner and attitude similar to that of Jose and Mrs. Sheridan. The reader first encounters Meg as she comes down to breakfast with her freshly washed hair wrapped up in a green turban and a “dark wet curl stamped on each cheek.” She refuses to go and supervise the workmen assembling the party tent because her hair is wet, so that responsibility falls to Laura.
See Mrs. Sheridan
Jose is Laura’s class-conscious older sister. She takes a dim view of Laura’s wish to cancel the garden party when she tells Laura that she “won’t bring a drunken workman back to life by being sentimental.”
Laura Sheridan is an idealistic and impressionable young person who struggles with her own and her family’s perceptions of class difference. Learning that a working-class neighbor was accidentally killed, Laura wants to cancel the garden party planned for that afternoon. The narrative centers on Laura’s vacillation between feelings of empathy for the dead laborer and her vanity and class elitism. She unsuccessfully tries to convince her mother to cancel the party. However, her mother distracts her with the gift of a new hat, and when Laura sees herself in the hat, she no longer presses for cancellation of the party. By the end of the story, however, Laura has made an attempt to relate to the lives of the family’s working-class neighbors, although the conclusion to the story is ambiguous. It is not clear what, if anything, she has learned or if the experience has changed her.
Mrs. Sheridan is Laura’s mother. Like Jose, Laura’s older sister, Mrs. Sheridan will not consider canceling the garden party because of the death of a laborer living nearby. In an attempt to appease Laura, however, she does suggest that Laura take the party leftovers to the widow of the dead man. She declares early in the story that she intends to leave the party preparations entirely up to her daughters, but it becomes clear that she is closely monitoring—and managing—every step.
Ira Mark Milne (Editor), Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 8, Katherine Mansfield, Published by Thomson Gale, 2000.