The doll’s house itself is a symbol of the Burnell family’s societal position. When it is brought into the Burnell courtyard, it becomes, literally, a house within a house, a mirror of the Burnell’s home. The narrator describes it as having a strong smell, so strong that it needs to spend time outside to air out before they bring it inside. Additionally, the house is painted a “dark, oily, spinach green” has “two solid little chimneys,” “yellow varnish,” and “a tiny porch…with big lumps of congealed paint hanging along the edge.” These phrases barely make the dollhouse seem beautiful, and the fat that the house is nice enough but not exquisite is a reflection of Mansfield’s opinion of the Burnells’ position in society. A foil for her own family growing up, the Burnells might have a large country home, but they are not living in a fancy house in town. Mansfield suggests the provincialism of the Burnells through the details of the house, criticizing, too, the pride they feel in the dollhouse and the social clout it brings them.
The Doll’s House Quotes in The Doll’s House
For, really, the smell of paint coming from that doll's house…was quite enough to make any one seriously ill, in Aunt Beryl's opinion. Even before the sacking was taken off. And when it was….
There stood the doll’s house, a dark, oily, spinach green, picked out with bright yellow. Its two solid little chimneys, glued on to the roof, were painted red and white, and the door, gleaming with yellow varnish, was like a little slab of toffee. Four windows, real windows, were divided into panes by a broad streak of green. 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.
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.
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…
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.