BEYOND THE BAYOU by Kate Chopin and THE GARDEN PARTY by Katherine Mansfield are two of the most significant short stories in the history of English Literature.
Both the stories portray post-war traumas, psychological conflicts, the hollowness of the society, Class conflicts, racism, interior monologues, nonlinear storytelling technique that make them modernist in approach and tone.
BEYOND THE BAYOU is a children’s story. It was first published in a children’s magazine Called THE YOUTH’S COMPANION (June 15,1893). THE GARDEN PARTY also appeared in a magazine called ‘Saturday Westminster Gazette’ (1922).
The stories were initially written for the children but also stand right for every reader as there are many themes, hidden behind the clouds. Both of them portray class conflicts. In BEYOND THE BAYOU Jaqueline suffers from mental trauma as in her childhood she saw her master P’tit Mai^tre in a bloody condition when he took shelter in her mother’s cabin.
The master only enters two times in her hut in the time of need. Her separation from the outside world shows the physical and psychological distance between white and black, rich, and poor people.
In THE GARDEN PARTY, we see the Sheridan family who is rich and happy. They have everything. They have the ‘Bright blue sky’. Their neighbours are poor and that’s why the Sheridan children can’t go there! Even when Laura requests her mother to stop the garden party after hearing the accidental death of one of their poor neighbours, Mrs. Sheridan simply replies, ‘Don’t be so extravagant’.
Mrs. Sheridan’s idea of distributing their leftover food to the dead man’s family clearly shows her plastic mentality. Cheri and Laura in a way symbolize innocence, which is far away from the class or racial discriminative mentality. They are simply the representative of the victimized children whom the grown-ups try to exploit slowly by their venomous tongues day by day.
BEYOND THE BAYOU centres around a woman named Jaqueline also known as La Folle whom the society calls ‘mad’. She allows only Cheri in her lonely world and when Cheri gets the wound, in desperation she crosses the bayou. She conquers her fear. Chopin’s protagonist is poor, black, and unconventional.
The story ends with Jaqueline watching the sunrise, which symbolizes hope and positivity. The readers get happy with the thought that finally, a poor black woman is getting a new life.
On the other hand, THE GARDEN PARTY shows a ‘Barbie girl’s’ sad and bitter experience about the class conflicts that make her arrive at the harsh reality from her ‘Barbie world’. She can’t tolerate the sensitive situation and bursts into tears. She ends the story with her stammering voice ‘isn’t life’.
Though class conflicts are visible in both the stories, the family of P’tit Maître is much kind than the Sheridans. Atleast P’tit Maître or his son Cheri have the freedom to visit La Folle or her mother’s house but Laura Sheridan or her siblings have no freedom to visit at least their neighbours’ locality.
To conclude the two stories become one at the end as both of them is about ‘self-discovery’ of two woman. Laura and La Folle can have different social backgrounds, skin tones, families and beliefs etc. But the incidents that revolves around them in the stories, give them a new perspective in their lives. At this point the two becomes one.