The Doll's House

The Doll's House Quotes and Analysis

There was actually a tiny porch, too, painted yellow, with big lumps of congealed paint hanging along the edge. But perfect, perfect little house! Who could possibly mind the smell. It was part of the joy, part of the newness.

Narrator, paragraph 3

In this passage, Mansfield's narrator shifts from describing the doll's house in a detached, neutral voice to the internal monologue of one of the Burnell girls remarking on the house's perfectness. The passage is significant because it exemplifies Mansfield's use of free indirect discourse, a literary mode in which characters' internal monologues are blended into the third-person narrator's voice, making no distinction between when opinions come from characters or the narrator.

But what Kezia liked more than anything, what she liked frightfully, was the lamp. It stood in the middle of the dining-room table, an exquisite little amber lamp with a white globe. It was even filled all ready for lighting, though, of course, you couldn’t light it. But there was something inside that looked like oil and moved when you shook it.

Narrator, paragraph 6

After describing the totality of the doll's house, detailing the exterior to the rooms and many pieces of furniture, the narrator moves into the perspective of Kezia, the youngest Burnell, who has zeroed in on the little lifelike lamp on the dining table. This passage is significant because the little lamp serves as a link between Kezia and Else Kelvey, who are united in their innocent fixation on the object and ignorance of the class-based prejudice and status concerns that preoccupy the older characters.

For it had been arranged that while the doll’s house stood in the courtyard they might ask the girls at school, two at a time, to come and look. Not to stay to tea, of course, or to come traipsing through the house. But just to stand quietly in the courtyard while Isabel pointed out the beauties, and Lottie and Kezia looked pleased.

Narrator, paragraph 12

In another example of Mansfield's use of free indirect discourse, the narrator adopts the Burnells' mother's speaking style and attitude while commenting on how the girls' mother has allowed them to invite two girls at a time to see the doll's house. The passage is significant because the narrator subtly reveals the Burnells' mother's class prejudice through her qualification that the kids from her children's mixed-income school will not be allowed into their house or treated as full guests; the children may only come to stand in envy while the Burnells show off their elaborate doll's house.

Lil gasped, then she said, "Your ma told our ma you wasn’t to speak to us."

Narrator/Lil Kelvey, paragraph 47

After Kezia surprises the Kelveys by casually inviting them into the courtyard to see the doll's house, Lil Kelvey gasps and reveals that Kezia's mother told Lil's mother that Kezia wasn't allowed to speak with the Kelveys. The passage is significant because while it reveals more of the Burnells' mother's class prejudice, it also shows how Mrs. Kelvey, in her less-powerful social position, has no choice but to warn Lil not to speak to the Burnell children—a command that forces Lil to believe in her own inferiority. In this way, the passage illustrates how prejudiced attitudes proliferate in societies, passed down by the powerful and assimilated by the powerless.

"I seen the little lamp," she said softly.

Else Kelvey, paragraph 67

In this passage—the last line of dialogue in the story—the Kelveys have just left the Burnells' courtyard after being shooed away and made to feel ashamed for thinking they would be allowed to see the doll's house like every other child. Else, having forgotten about Aunt Beryl's scolding, innocently remarks on how she saw the little lamp. The passage is significant because it reveals that while all the other girls on the playground didn't share Kezia's interest in the little lamp, Else was similarly enchanted by it. Through the symbol of the little lamp, Mansfield unites Kezia and Else in their youthful innocence and ignorance of the class-based prejudice and shame the older characters have assimilated.