The Doll’s House

by

Katherine Mansfield

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Lil Kelvey Character Analysis

The older sister of Else and the daughter of the village’s “spry washerwoman,” Lil is often mocked by the other girls at school. She is “a stout, plain child, with big freckles,” and wears a dress made from pieces of material her mother collected while cleaning homes—including a green tablecloth that used to belong to the Burnells and red sleeves from the Logan’s old curtains. She also wears a hat that used to belong to the postmistress, which is far too big and looks ridiculous on her. She does not join in when the other girls chat and play at school, choosing instead to stay off to the side with her sister. Lil rarely speaks, instead responding to the other girls’ taunts with a “silly, shamefaced smile.” When Kezia invites Lil and Else into the courtyard to see the doll’s house, Lil at first refuses out of a sense of shame and fear, knowing that it would be out of line for her and her sister to enter the Burnell’s home.

Lil Kelvey Quotes in The Doll’s House

The The Doll’s House quotes below are all either spoken by Lil Kelvey or refer to Lil Kelvey. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Doll’s House published in 1956.
The Doll’s House Quotes

That is the way for a house to open! Why don’t all houses open like that? How much more exciting than peering through the slit of a door into a mean little hall with a hatstand and two umbrellas! That is—isn’t it?—what you long to know about a house when you put your hand on the knocker. Perhaps it is the way God opens houses at dead of night when He is taking a quiet turn with an angel…

“O-oh!” The Burnell children sounded as though they were in despair. It was too marvelous; it was too much for them. They had never seen anything like it in their lives.

Related Characters: Kezia Burnell, Lil Kelvey, Else Kelvey
Related Symbols: The Doll’s House
Page Number: 314-315
Explanation and Analysis:

Playtime came and Isabel was surrounded. The girls of her class nearly fought to put their arms round her, to walk away with her, to beam flatteringly, to be her special friend. She held quite a court under the hung pine trees...the only two who stayed outside the ring were the two who were always outside, the Kelveys. They knew better than to come anywhere near the Burnells.

Related Characters: Isabel Burnell , Lil Kelvey, Else Kelvey
Related Symbols: The Doll’s House
Page Number: 316
Explanation and Analysis:

For the fact was, the school the Burnell children went to was not at all the kind of place their parents would have chosen if there had been any choice. But there was none. It was the only school for miles. And the consequence was all the children in the neighborhood, the Judge’s little girls, the doctor’s daughters, the storekeeper’s children, the milkman’s, were forced to mix together.

Page Number: 316
Explanation and Analysis:

But the line had to be drawn somewhere. It was drawn at the Kelveys. Many of the children, including the Burnells, were not allowed even to speak to them…the Kelveys were shunned by everybody.

Page Number: 316
Explanation and Analysis:

They were the daughters of a spry, hardworking little washerwoman, who went about from house to house by the day. This was awful enough. But where was Mr. Kelvey? Nobody knew for certain. But everybody said he was in prison. So they were the daughters of a washerwoman and a gaolbird. Very nice company for other people’s children!

Related Characters: Lil Kelvey, Else Kelvey
Page Number: 316-317
Explanation and Analysis:

Where Lil went our Else followed. In the playground, on the road going to and from school, there was Lil marching in front and our Else holding on behind. Only when she wanted anything or when she was out of breath, our Else gave Lil a tug, a twitch, and Lil stopped and turned round. The Kelveys never failed to understand each other.

Related Characters: Lil Kelvey, Else Kelvey
Page Number: 317
Explanation and Analysis:

Emmie Cole started the whisper.

“Lil Kelvey’s going to be a servant when she grows up.”

“O-oh, how awful!” said Isabel Burnell, and she made eyes at Emmie.

Emmie swallowed in a very meaning way and nodded to Isabel as she’d seen her mother do on those occasions.

“It’s true—it’s true—it’s true,” she said.

Related Characters: Isabel Burnell (speaker), Emmie Cole (speaker), Lil Kelvey
Page Number: 318
Explanation and Analysis:

“Is it true you’re going to be a servant when you grow up, Lil Kelvey?” shrilled Lena.

Dead silence. But instead of answering, Lil only gave her silly, shamefaced smile. She didn’t seem to mind the question at all. What a sell for Lena! The girls began to titter.

Lena couldn’t stand that. She put her hands on her hips; she shot forward. “Yah, yer father’s in prison!” she hissed, spitefully.

Related Characters: Lena Logan (speaker), Lil Kelvey, Else Kelvey
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

Isabel and Lottie, who liked visitors, went upstairs to change their pinafores. But Kezia thieved out back. Nobody was about; she began to swing on the big white gates of the courtyard. Presently, looking along the road, she saw two little dots. They grew bigger, they were coming towards her…Now she could see that they were the Kelveys. Kezia stopped swinging. She slipped off the gate as if she was going to run away. Then she hesitated. The Kelveys came nearer, and beside them walked their shadows, very long, stretching right across the road with their heads in the buttercups. Kezia clambered back on the gate; she had made up her mind; she swung out.

Related Characters: Kezia Burnell, Lil Kelvey, Else Kelvey
Related Symbols: The White Gates
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

Suddenly there was a twitch, a tug at Lil's skirt. She turned round. Our Else was looking at her with big, imploring eyes; she was frowning; she wanted to go. For a moment Lil looked at our Else very doubtfully. But then our Else twitched her skirt again. She started forward. Kezia led the way. Like two little stray cats they followed across the courtyard to where the doll's house stood.

Related Characters: Lil Kelvey, Else Kelvey
Page Number: 320
Explanation and Analysis:

"Off you go immediately!" she called, cold and proud.

They did not need telling twice. Burning with shame, shrinking together, Lil huddling along like her mother, our Else dazed, somehow they crossed the big courtyard and squeezed through the white gate.

Related Characters: Lil Kelvey, Else Kelvey, Aunt Beryl
Related Symbols: The White Gates
Page Number: 320
Explanation and Analysis:

The afternoon had been awful. A letter had come from Willie Brent, a terrifying, threatening letter, saying if she did not meet him that evening in Pulman's Bush, he'd come to the front door and ask the reason why! But now that she had frightened those little rats of Kelveys and given Kezia a good scolding, her heart felt lighter. That ghastly pressure was gone. She went back to the house humming.

Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:

Presently our Else nudged up close to her sister. But now she had forgotten the cross lady. She put out a finger and stroked her sister's quill; she smiled her rare smile.

"I seen the little lamp," she said, softly. Then both were silent once more.

Related Characters: Else Kelvey (speaker), Kezia Burnell, Lil Kelvey
Related Symbols: The Lamp
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Doll’s House LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Doll’s House PDF

Lil Kelvey Character Timeline in The Doll’s House

The timeline below shows where the character Lil Kelvey appears in The Doll’s House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Doll’s House
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...to hear what Isabel has to share. All, that is, except for the Kelvey sisters, Lil and Else. As the poorest girls at the school, they are always excluded, and know... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Provincialism and Pretense  Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...children and the milkman’s.” The Kelveys, in particular, are the family everyone tries to avoid. Lil and Else’s mother is a washerwoman, and their father is out of the picture, leaving... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Lil and Else dress in unattractive clothing that makes their poverty all the more noticeable. Lil... (full context)
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...tiny frame, and big, expressive eyes like “a little white owl.” She walks around behind Lil, holding on to the hem of her sister’s skirt, tugging it when she wants something.... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...other girl’s chat at school. Sometimes a girl will turn and sneer at them, but Lil only smiles back. Isabel, meanwhile, spills all the juicy details of the doll’s house, and... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...eat “thick mutton sandwiches and big slabs of johnny cake spread with butter” while the Lil and Else sit apart eating plain jam sandwiches “out of a newspaper soaked with large... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Provincialism and Pretense  Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...girls begin gossiping about the Kelveys instead. Emmie Cole starts it, whispering to Isabel that Lil will grow up to be a washerwoman just like her mother. As she talks, she... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
When approached by Lena, Lil and Else stop eating and hide their sandwiches. Lena asks Lil, “Is it true you’re... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
...small dots along the road in the distance. As they get closer, she realizes it’s Lil and Else. She jumps off the white gates and considers running off, but changes her... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...and asks the Kelveys if they want to come inside and see the doll’s house. Lil and Else are stunned, and Lil quickly shakes her head no. When Kezia asks why... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Provincialism and Pretense  Theme Icon
Else and Lil follow Kezia inside, and Kezia opens the doll’s house for them. When Kezia begins to... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Provincialism and Pretense  Theme Icon
...later that night. She feels better now that she has scolded Kezia and scared off Lil and Else. (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Lil and Else run off, stopping to rest by a “big red drain-pipe” on the roadside.... (full context)