The Doll’s House

by

Katherine Mansfield

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The Doll’s House Symbol Analysis

The Doll’s House  Symbol Icon

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

The The Doll’s House quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Doll’s House . 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

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.

Related Symbols: The Doll’s House
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

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…

Related Characters: Isabel Burnell
Related Symbols: The Doll’s House
Page Number: 315-316
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:
Get the entire The Doll’s House LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Doll’s House PDF

The Doll’s House Symbol Timeline in The Doll’s House

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Doll’s House 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
Provincialism and Pretense  Theme Icon
A doll’s house arrives at the Burnell’s home, sent from town by a family friend as a thank... (full context)
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Provincialism and Pretense  Theme Icon
The “sacking” covering the doll’s house is taken off to reveal the exterior of the house. It is painted a “dark,... (full context)
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
The next morning, the Burnell sisters rush to school, excited to tell everyone about the doll’s house . Isabel warns her sisters Lottie and Kezia that she, as the oldest, ought to... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Provincialism and Pretense  Theme Icon
...invite girls from school two at a time into their family’s courtyard to see the doll’s house . These visiting girls are not invited to stay for tea or to go play... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
The Burnells don’t make it to school in time to brag about the doll’s house before the bell rings, and instead Isabel tries to make herself seem mysterious and whispers... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...them, but Lil only smiles back. Isabel, meanwhile, spills all the juicy details of the doll’s house , and Kezia has to remind her to mention the lamp. No one pays the... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
Over the next few days, the doll’s house is all anyone can talk about, and the girls at school kiss up to Isabel... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
...a flashback, Kezia asks her mother if she may invite the Kelvey’s to see the doll’s house but Mrs. Burnell refuses. When asked why, she brushes Kezia off and tells her that... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Provincialism and Pretense  Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...few days pass, and now every girl at school except the Kelveys has seen the doll’s house . Bored of talking about the house, the girls begin gossiping about the Kelveys instead.... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...says hello 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... (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 give them a tour of the small house, Aunt... (full context)