Is there a conlict in the story entitled "The Doll's House," by Katherine Mansfield?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Most definitely. I cannot think of any work of literature that does not actually have some form of conflict that drives it, and this excellent short story by Mansfield is no exception. As with many of her works, her subject is class consciousness and how, in this small, rural, New Zealand village, social niceties exclude some and include others. What highlights these harsh social divisions is the gift of the doll's house that the Burnell sisters receive. Who they allow to see it and who is included in their gang says a lot about social divisions. Let us examine the text as it talks about their society:

For the fact was, the school the Burnell children wen to was not at all the kind of place their parents would hve chosen if there had been any choice. But there was none. It was the only school for miles. And the consequence was all the children in the neighbourhood, the Judge's little girls, the doctor's daughters, the storekeeper's children, the milkman's, were forced to mix together. Not to speak of there being an equal number of rude, rough little boys as well. But the line had to be drawn somwhere. It was drawn at the Kelveys.

Note how Mansfield is deliberately setting up a kind of microcosm of the world, where the different social groupings are unable to avoid each other. Note too how her text points towards the essential reality of life: there must always be a "line" and that "line" must always be drawn to exclude people. In this story, it is the poor Kelvey sisters who are excluded. Of course, Kezia's decision to let them see the doll's house hints at the ways in which the "line" can be transgressed, but this is only temporary before it is redrawn with greater strength. Thus the conflict in the story concerns class differences, as exemplified in the differences between the Burnells and the Kelveys.

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