The Doll’s House

by

Katherine Mansfield

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The Lamp  Symbol Icon

Most broadly, the miniature oil lamp in the doll’s house symbolizes the ideas of connection and inclusivity. The best feature of the house according to Kezia, the youngest Burnell sister fixates on the lamp when she first sees it and prizes it because it seems to fit so perfectly in the house. This makes it especially pertinent in a story that is very much about “fitting in”—the Burnell sisters are popular and beloved by all the other little girls in the town while the Kelveys, Lil and Else, are despised and mocked. The lamp lacks the extravagance of the rest of the house and is a small, almost mundane feature, yet Kezia cares about it even as everyone else seems to ignore it. In the same way, she cares about including the Kelvey sisters when everyone else would rather not bother. Light is also often a symbol of hope, and the lamp thus further represents the hope that Kezia can overcome the strict class divides that rule the village. Kezia does eventually invite the Kelveys to see the dollhouse, though they are quickly scolded and shooed off by Aunt Beryl. In the end, Else smiles her rare smile because she, too, has seen, and appreciated, the perfect little lamp. Kezia and Else each share their love of the lamp despite their obvious class differences, and Mansfield seems to suggest that friendship and empathy can overcome class prejudice.

The Lamp Quotes in The Doll’s House

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

But what Kezia liked more than anything, what she liked frightfully, was the lamp. It stood in the middle of the dining-room table, an exquisite little amber lamp with a white globe. It was even filled all ready for lighting, though, of course, you couldn’t light it. But there was something inside that looked like oil, and moved when you shook it.

The father and mother dolls…were really too big for the doll's house. They didn't look as though they belonged. But the lamp was perfect. It seemed to smile at Kezia, to say, “I live here.”

Related Characters: Kezia Burnell, Else Kelvey
Related Symbols: The Lamp
Page Number: 315
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

The Lamp Symbol Timeline in The Doll’s House

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Lamp appears in The Doll’s House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Doll’s House
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
...actual bedspreads, and kitchen fit with a small stove. Kezia, the youngest, notices a small lamp in particular, which sits on the dining room table and is filled with a liquid... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...juicy details of the doll’s house, and Kezia has to remind her to mention the lamp. No one pays the lamp any attention, however, too excited to find out who Isabel... (full context)
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
...smiles. She speaks for the first time in the story, saying, “I seen the little lamp.” (full context)