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What are some themes in the short story "Her First Ball" by Katherine Mansfield?Please...

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teenqueen23 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 5, 2011 at 3:57 PM via web

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What are some themes in the short story "Her First Ball" by Katherine Mansfield?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:57 AM (Answer #1)

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Katherine Mansflied's story of "pictorial intensity" presents an ingenue from the outback who attends her first ball. Mesmerized by the magic of the night, the innocent Leila perceives

The road was bright on either side with moving fan-like lights, and on the pavement gay couples seemed to float through the air: little satin shoes chased each other like birds.

In a kaleidoscope of images and colors, Leila is thrilled by the new experience of attending her first ball.  It is a night in which she learns much, such as the temporality of youth and the conflict between youth and age. 

The temporal nature of youth

As Leila delights in all the wonderful sensations of being young and dancing with the handsome youths who ask her, she gives little thoughts to anything but the ecstasy of the moment. Floating on nimble feet, Leila attracts the attention of others because of her grace.

Perhaps it was a little strange that her partners were not more interested.... It seemed to her that she had never known what the night was like before.

But, with the intrusion of the balding, fat old man, Leila is forcibly made aware of the temporal conditions of life. For, he tells her he has been attending the ball for thirty years, and he goes on to describe how Leila will be like the elderly ladies who are dressed in black and fan themselves against the air, merely watching with nostalgia. At this point, Leila rues, "Why didn't happiness last for ever?"

Innocence vs. Experience

Despite the old fat man's breaking of the spell under which Leila feels herself until he cuts in, Leila chooses to ignore the voice of experience for the enjoyment of the moment. When a young man takes her hand for another dance, her feet again begin to glide and all becomes "one beautiful flying wheel."  Bumping into her, the fat man speaks to her, but she merely smiles and does not "even recognize him again," choosing to delight with youthful resilience against the cynical voice of experience: "She didn't even recognize him again." 

 

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