The doll's house at the center of the story is a symbol of social privilege. Gifted by a wealthy guest at the Burnells' home, the doll's house further elevates the Burnell girls' already high social status at their mixed-income school. Isabel uses the doll's house to create an aura of fame and importance around herself, which her mother furthers by only allowing two girls to see the house at a time. Isabel extends her privilege to the people she selects by giving them the privilege of seeing the house. Eventually, every girl except the Kelveys has seen the doll's house, thereby cementing their underprivileged social status.
The Little Lamp (Symbol)
The little lifelike lamp that sits on the dining table in the doll's house is a symbol of innocence. Kezia, the youngest Burnell, is distinguished from her family because she notices the beauty of the little lamp while her older sister Isabel has no interest in the lamp, valuing the house mostly for how the house can extend her social privilege. While boasting at school, Isabel neglects to mention the lamp, prompting Kezia to attempt to get her to make a bigger deal about the lamp so her audience understands how exquisite it is. At the end of the story, Else Kelvey tells her sister Lil that "I seen the little lamp," a line that suggests she heard Kezia talking about the lamp and similarly zeroed in on it when they finally got to see the doll's house. Appreciating the little lamp establishes a connection of innocence between Kezia and Else, who are the only characters in the story who do not understand why they are meant to follow Kezia's mother's prejudiced order not to speak to each other.
Throughout the story Mansfield uses a narrative mode called free indirect discourse to have her narrator report the thoughts of characters without distinguishing between the omniscient narrator's voice and the character's interior voice. Mansfield introduces this motif when she writes "But perfect, perfect little house!" in the third paragraph without specifying which of the Burnell children is having the thought. Later in the story, Mansfield's narrator absorbs the class prejudice of the society in which in the story is set by commenting on the fact of the Kelveys' mother being a washerwoman with the qualification "this was awful enough." Using free indirect discourse runs the risk of conflating the author's opinions with the opinions the narrator plucks out of characters' heads, but Mansfield uses the motif to capture the unexamined nature of her characters' prejudice.
The Doll’s House Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Doll’s House is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The Burnells are introduced, as they opened the doll house.... a gift from Mrs. Hay. They loved the gift and were excited to tell everyone about it the next day at school. Isabel is described as bossy..... her sisters simply follow her lead.
The main theme in this short story is the theme of social class and how there is a strict fence between those who are well-off and those who aren't whether it be a social or economical one. The Kelveys are the center of this theme as a poor...
Kezia Burnell is the younger and more pure Burnell sibling. I think Kezia is the most sympathetic of the rich children. The one thing that grabs her attention on the doll's house is the little realistic lamp. She doesn't understand why the Kelvey...