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In "Her First Ball," Mansfield describes a bittersweet moment of innocence and maturation. Having grown up in the country, 15 miles from the closest neighbor, Leila's experience at the ball is more dramatic and significant than it is for her friends who have been to dances before and who treat the whole experience with adult nonchalance. This is an important event in Leila's maturation because it marks a moment between the innocence of youth and the knowledge of adulthood. Once she gets her bearings, Leila is enchanted with everything about it, the flowers, flags and dresses all flowing together like "one beautiful fly wheel." These images of flowers and flowing fabrics symbolize the tranquil beauty of youth and the fairy tale atmosphere of the ball.
This is all nearly foiled by the old, fat man's rude awakening, telling Leila that this will not last. One day, she will be like him, old and less graceful. This doesn't ruin her night however. It just makes her acutely aware of how fleeting youth and wonderful experiences such as these are. Rather than ruin the moment, this gives her a greater appreciation.
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