The Doll’s House


Katherine Mansfield

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Themes and Colors
Insiders, Outsiders, and Class Theme Icon
Innocence and Cruelty  Theme Icon
Provincialism and Pretense  Theme Icon
Talking vs. Silence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Doll’s House, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Insiders, Outsiders, and Class

Katherine Mansfield’s The Doll’s House is primarily a tale about how class shapes life in small village. The story revolves around the daughters of two families, the wealthy Burnells and the lower-class Kelveys. As rich insiders, the Burnells do not associate with poor outsiders like the Kelveys. As such, when the young Burnell sisters receive a doll’s house, all the little girls at their school are invited to see it except for the Kelvey…

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Innocence and Cruelty

While The Doll’s House mostly focuses on the interactions between young girls with one another, it is not simply a story about how children behave. These girls are, in many ways, simply representations of the society in which they are being raised, and their behavior reflects what their parents and elders have taught them. Tellingly, the older characters prove more rigid in their upholding of society’s rules. In contrast, the youngest characters are the only…

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Provincialism and Pretense

Based on Mansfield’s own childhood experiences of moving from the New Zealand town of Wellington to the rural village of Karori, The Doll’s House is a critique of small-town vanity. Beyond emphasizing the arbitrary nature of class division, the story also mocks the narrow-minded provincialism of the Burnells—the most distinguished family in a tiny village, outside a small town, on a far-off island in the British Empire. The Doll’s House ultimately points to the desire…

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Talking vs. Silence

Much of the communication in The Doll’s House is nonverbal. The Kelvey sisters, in particular, barely speak in the story, instead communicating mostly through gestures and glances. It’s clear, however, that though Lil and Else rarely talk, they easily understand each other. In contrast, the Burnells and their friends are almost constantly yapping, gossiping, or boasting about the doll’s house. Unlike the Kelveys, their chatter often proves shallow and frivolous. By exploring these very…

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