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In "Her First Ball", how doesn't Mansfield depict Leila in the story?

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user3120320 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted September 8, 2013 at 8:15 PM via iOS

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In "Her First Ball", how doesn't Mansfield depict Leila in the story?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 8, 2013 at 10:46 PM (Answer #1)

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Leila [might have said] Perhaps her first real partner was the cab. It did not matter that she shared the cab with the Sheridan girls and their brother. She sat back in her own little corner of it, and the bolster on which her hand rested felt like the sleeve of an unknown young man's dress suit;

I think that one distinct way in which Mansfield does not present Lelia is in a simplistic and reductive manner.  Mansfield shows Lelia to be overcome with the moment, but also moving back and forth between memories of her past as well the emotional timbre of the moment.  Mansfield shows Lelia in a complex and nuanced manner.  She is far from simplistic and far from being a caricature.  It is for this reason that Mansfield does not show Lelia to be a one- dimensional character.

Another way that Mansfield does not depict Lelia is with a false and arbitrary ending.  The ending of the story is one in which Lelia has recognized both the joy in the moment and has also acknowledged what the fat man has said.  The ball being both a moment of triumph and of disillusion is a reflection of life, itself.  There is intricacy, complicated notions of identity, and anything far from a resolution.  Mansfield understands this as she has constructed Lelia's narrative.  Due to this, she has not depicted the ending as one where there is simplicity and a "happy ending."  It is a realistic one.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 11, 2013 at 7:08 AM (Answer #2)

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Leila is certainly not worldly as are some of the other girls or world-weary as is the fat man.  As the title of Mansfield's story denotes, Leila is inexperienced and naive, having grown up in the country and learned to dance without benefit of masculine partners.

An ingenue, Leila finds each experience thrilling; it is all "the beginning of everything" for her.

Oh, dear, how hard it was to be indifferent like the others!....For it was thrilling. Her first ball!

Everything seems new to her; the night, for instance, Leila feels has merely been dark and mournful before now. But, on this evening, it has "opened dazzling bright." Even when the fat, older man makes her aware of age and mortality, Leila rejects this truth and in her resilience, she seizes the excitement of the moment and glides through the evening, smiling "more radiantly than ever."

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