How are Mrs. Burnell and Mrs. Kelvey described in "A Doll's House"?

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In Katherine Mansfield’s story, the characterization of the two mothers is primarily indirect. Mrs. Burnell is not described physically at all. We learn about her through a few phrases and from the narrator’s information about the family’s attitudes and choices. Isabel, the eldest, claims that her mother authorized her...

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In Katherine Mansfield’s story, the characterization of the two mothers is primarily indirect. Mrs. Burnell is not described physically at all. We learn about her through a few phrases and from the narrator’s information about the family’s attitudes and choices. Isabel, the eldest, claims that her mother authorized her to choose the first girls to come and see the doll house. The narrator says that the Burnell children were not allowed to speak to the Kelveys, but later, Lil tells Kezia that Kezia’s mother had told Lil’s mother of this decision. When Kezia asks her mother if the Kelvey girls can come see the house, Mrs. Burnell tells her that she cannot and adds, “you know quite well why not.” Mrs. Burnell is a snob and is encouraging her daughters to have superior attitudes as well.

There is a tiny amount of physical description of Mrs. Kelvey, but she is given no dialogue. The narrator calls her “a spry, hardworking little washerwoman.” She goes to the houses of the well-to-do families. They apparently give her their old, discarded clothes and textiles, from which she makes her daughters’ clothes. Lil, for example, is described as wearing a dress made in part from a tablecloth that had belonged to the Burnells. She is a single mother and other people circulate rumors that her husband is in jail.

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