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List some examples of where Leila's innocence is illustrated in "Her First Ball" with...

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kharsa | Student | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted May 21, 2011 at 6:27 PM via web

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List some examples of where Leila's innocence is illustrated in "Her First Ball" with specific reference to text and events in detail.

"Her First Ball" by Katherine Mansfield

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 22, 2011 at 9:12 AM (Answer #1)

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Not only is it Leila's first ball, but as the exposition of "Her First Ball" illustrates, there is a novelty to everything surrounding this event because of her inexperience of urbane life.  For instance, the story opens with "Perhaps her first real partner was the cab."  Leila's thoughts, also, indicate her lack of experience:

Oh, dear, how hard it was to be indifferent like the others!  She tried not to smile too much; she tried not to care.  But every single thing was so new and exciting...Meg's tuberoses, Jose's long loop of amber, Laura's little dark head, pushing above her white fur like a flower through snow.  She would remember for ever.  It even gave her a pang to see her cousin Laurie throw away the wisps of tissue paper he pulled from the fastening of his new gloves.  She would like to have kept those wisps as a keepsake, as a remembrance.

This passage also illustrates how her mind dances with wonder as she imagines "waltzing lampposts and houses and fences." Even insignificant details such as the tissue paper of Laurie's gloves seem marvelous to her.  Indeed, it is a romantic vision of the evening that resides in Leila's mind as she marvels at having a brother who reminds his sister of their scheduled dances together.

Another indication of the naivete and romantic vision of Leila is the imagery used to describe this vision.  For example, the road is described as "bright on either side with moving fan-like lights," and it seems "to float through the air";further, the satin shoes of the dancers "chased each other like birds" in Leila's imagination.

As she is "pushed" into the Ladies' room, and "pressed ...through the crush in the passage towards the big double door of the drill hall," it is as though Leila is swept away rather than consciously walking.  In her heightened excitement, Leila envisions the hanging colored flags as "talking."  She thinks to herself, "How heavenly; how simply heavenly!" 

For the ingenue Leila, there is an ethereal atmosphere to the circumstances preceding the ball.  Emotionally, she is swept away in this conception of the ball being "heavenly" as she is taken by such mundane things as the tissue paper of Laurie's gloves and the "darling little pink-and-silver programs" and the color flags strung above her.  This perception of Leila's clearly indicates her innocence. 

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