The Doll’s House
Katherine Mansfield
Kathleen: biography
• 1888 (New Zealand)
1923 (France)
• From a rich middle-class
colonial family (her
father was a banker and
also a knight of the
Mansfield: life
• Early life in Wellington and its suburbans
• Social context: colonial Victorian period
during childhood, World War I when adult
• Relation to her short-stories
– Family ties (cousin, brother, father and
mother visited her in Europe, which helped to
influence her short-stories about “home”)
– Country-side memories
Mansfield: childhood
Mansfield: childhood
Mansfield: perspective
Mansfield: perspective
Mansfield: perspective
Mansfield: education
• “All the Karori children — boys and girls
—went to the [same] Karori School”
Mansfield: inspiration
• She wrote in 1916: “I begin to think of an
unfinished memory which has been with me
for years. It is a very good story if only I can
tell it right, and it is called ‘Lena’”
• Kezia and Lottie appear in other stories,
perhaps indicating crystallized characters
inspired by early memories as a girl: At The
Bay, The Man Without a Temperament,
Mansfield: inspiration
• “Selected children from the Primary
School — selected neighbour children —
were allowed over to play with them; and
then they had great parties in the garden”
Mansfield: adult life
• Left New Zealand and move to England to
never see home again
• Had two lesbian relationships, possibly
four, and had a spontaneous abortion once
• Kept writing about personal experiences
(like her time in Bavaria for a treatment)
• Married John Murry, an influent editor,
which allowed her to publish her works
and review other authors of that time
Mansfield: literature
• Influenced by D. H. Lawrence, Woolf,
French symbolists, Wilde, Chekhov
• Modernist texts: attention to details,
nonlinear narratives, not much structure
• Today considered one of the best shortstory writers of her period, frequently
included in short-stories anthologies.
• Trivia: 33 short-stories documented online
Mansfield: literature
• Themes: class consciousness, loneliness,
women’s rights, māoris, reality versus
appearances, relationships, childhood
• Fragment of letter written by Woolf to
Mansfield: “It seems to me very important
that women should learn to write”
Mansfield: death
• Died of tuberculosis, she was only 34
“ ...the longer I live, the more I return to
New Zealand. A young country is a real
heritage, though it takes one time to
remember it. But New Zealand is in my
very bones”
Mansfield: pictures
Mansfield: pictures
Mansfield: pictures
Mansfield: pictures
Short-story: symbolism
• The main symbol is, at the same time, the
title and the subject of the short story, that
is, the doll’s house
• There are many aspects revolving around
this symbol or subject, as if the doll’s
house was a gravitational point where
everything in the short story happens
Short-story: characteristics
• Characters: the Burnell
sisters, the little Kelveys, the
mother and aunt, school
• Action: the girls run to see
the doll’s house, the great
• Conflict: the little Kelveys
are not invited to see it
• Themes: pride and
prejudice, true and false
feellings of friendship,
Short-story: plot
• Emphasis: Mansfield focuses the
relationship among the society of her time,
emphasizing themes such as prejudice and
external appearances
• Pacing: the rhythm of the narrative is fast,
covering mainly the interest of showing
and seeing the doll’s house
• Order: chronological order
Short-story: structure
• Exposition: the description of the doll’s house and
its effect upon the children
• Conflict: the initial conflict takes place when the
poor sisters are not invited to see the doll’s house
– Person against person: all characters but Kezia avoid
the little Kelveys sisters due to their social condition
– Person against environment: at the same time the
little Kelveys as well as their parents are victims of the
society’s prejudice. Rich people avoiding poor people
Short-story: structure
• Rising action: takes place when Kezia invites the little
Kelveys sisters to see the doll’s house
• Climax: when finally the little Kelveys sisters see the
doll´s house and soon after they are expelled from the
backyard by aunt Beryl
• Falling action: the little Kelveys, after that tremendous
fright, stop to rest
• Resolution: the little Kelveys were satisfied to see the
doll’s house. Elsa was happy manly because she saw
the little lamp
Short-story: narrator
• The narrator is omniscient during the
whole plot of the short story. He is an
observer, controlling the situation and
some times being an intruder narrator,
commenting about life in a poetic way in
this short story
Short-story: setting
• The readers have only two clues of the setting:
when, at the beginning of the short story the
narrator says that Mrs. Hay went back to town,
that is, she was in some place at countryside; when
the narrator says that there was one school for
miles, giving to the readers the idea of a small
place or countryside
• Thus, the setting is important to establish the
confluence of people from many levels of society
where the theme of prejudice is infiltrated
Short-story: characterization
• Protagonist and antagonist: it is difficult to establish the
protagonist of this short story because Kezia and the little
Kelveys have the same importance in the plot. If one or
another did not exist the plot would not be well constructed
• On the other hand we have many antagonists in the plot.
Isabel Burnell, her colleagues and her aunt are in the same
level, all them carrying their prejudice against the little
Kelveys. The conventions of society, the false appearances and
prejudice are antagonists as well
• The only characters presented in details on the plot are the
little Kelveys. The narrator explores their clothes as a signal of
their social condition. The direct presentation is used
Short-story: types
• All characters in The Doll’s House are flat
• The antagonists are characterized by their
prejudice and insensibility, the children
following the educational patterns of their
• In spite of their kindness, simplicity and
innocence, Kezia and the little Kelveys are
also flat characters, because there is no
complexity in their behavior
Short-story: themes
• The central concept of this short story is
the prejudice against poverty as well as the
idea of false appearances
• Besides, there is a subtle theme in The
Doll’s House that is the example of parents
about the education of their children
Short-story: symbolism
• The Doll’s house is a symbol
• In this short story the external aspect of the house,
its beauty, appearance, color and form alludes to
the external aspect of human being, that is, his
position in society, assets and family’s name
• The internal components of the house have many
meanings, being the little lamp which has the main
significance. The lamp represents the soul, the
qualities of the human being and his real nature
Short-story: more
• Maybe the literary allusion in The Doll’s
House could be the title, because is the same
of the Ibsen’s famous play. But, as there is
not any connection between contents in these
works, maybe there is only a coincidence
• There are some quotations in The Doll’s
House where we can see soft indications of
Thank you
Caio Begotti
Carlos Conrado
UFPR, 2010
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