Discuss the theme of excitement vs. loss of innocence in Her First Ball"Her First Ball" by Katherine Mansfield

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Leila of Katherine Mansfield's "Her First Ball" is an naive young lady who comes from the outback to the city to attend her first ball.  She "floated away like a flower that is tossed into a pool" as someone's hand presses her waist and they dance on the "beautifully slippery" floor.  The newness and excitement of this ball that has handsome young men and is "heavenly" to Leila is thrilling.  She considers that it is  

the beginning of everything. It seemed to her that she had never known what the night ws like before.  Up till now it had been dark, silent, beautiful very often--oh, yes--but mournful somehow.  solemmn. And now it would never be like that again--it had opened dazzling bright.

But, the words of a cynical older, fat man mitigate Leila's excitement. It is not so much what he says, but the callousness of his feeling that he can just deflate her excitement with impunity that bothers Leila.  After his cynical comments on how she will soon be among the "poor old dears" with black bony fans who watch from on the stage, Leila feels that the music has changed to a melancholy melody that rises on a "great sigh."  She mourns that happiness is so ephemeral.  Telling the fat man that she wishes to stop dancing, Leila wonders why he has spoiled her enjoyment.  But, she retorts to his "you mustn't take me seriously, little lady"  with a quip.  Soon, a young man with curly hair bows to Leila and they dance.  At this point as their feet glide, Leila chooses to ignore the truth of the human condition for the enjoyment of the moment--carpe diem--in what she has earlier described as "the beginning of everything."  When her next partner bumps her into the fat man who says "Pardon," Leila smiles radiantly at him, "more radiantly than ever."

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