Please enlighten us about the author's use of "archetypes" to convey the theme in The Dolls' House by Katherine Mansfield.  Thank you.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A story that depicts the cruelty of class distinctions, "The Doll's House" by Katherine Mansfield presents the archetype of the Innocent in the smallest Kelvey girl, called our Else--

a tiny wishbone of a child, with cropped hair and enormous solemn eyes-a little white owl. Nobody had ever seen her smile; she scarcely ever spoke--

and the Rebel in the character Kezia. When the Burnell girls receive a huge wooden doll's house from "dear old" Mrs. Hays, the pampered children let it sit in the box for a while because of the strong odor of the paint. But, once they open it, the Burnell children are all delighted by it with its colorful rooms that have wallpaper and figurines, and by the life-like lamp that seems to illuminate the miniature house.

The little Burnells are so excited about their doll house that they wish to have all their classmates see it--all except the Kelvey children, whose mother is a washerwoman and whose father purportedly is in prison; they are Outcasts. The Burnell children have been strictly instructed to never associate with these two girls who will be only servants when they are grown. These two girls sit by themselves at lunchtime, ostracized by the other children whose parents are judges and doctors and store owners.

And the only two who stayed outside the ring were the two who were always outside, the little Kelveys. They knew better than to come anywhere near the Burnells.

One day at lunch, after the other children have seen the doll house and its excitement has faded, the impudent Lena Logan decides to taunt the Kelvey girls about their lowly station in life and ridicule their parents. But, the girls say nothing; Lil gives her meek smile and our Else just clings to her sister's skirt. 

That afternoon the Burnell children are given a ride home, so since she has free time, Kezia sneaks out to the back yard, swinging on the large, white gates of the Burnell courtyard. Presently, she sees the Kelvey girls coming along. When she actually speaks to them, they stop in amazement. Undeterred by their startled expressions, Kezia offers to show them the doll house; however, Lil hesitantly replies, "Your ma told our ma you wasn't to speak to us." Nevertheless, Kezia makes her offer again, and little Else moves forward, insistent upon seeing this special house. As Kezia opens the door for them, there is a shrill voice, asking Kezia what she is doing by allowing the Kelvey girls into the courtyard.

"You know as well as I do, you're not allowed to talk to them. Run away, children, run away at once. And don't come back again," said Aunt Beryl.

The girls are chased out as though they were chickens. But, thanks to the Rebel Burnell, the Innocent has seen "the lamp," the special delight of the house. She, like the others is privy to the secret magic of that lamp. "I seen the little lamp," she says softly and reverently, knowing she has been, for a moment, the equal of the other girls. For that magic moment there was no class distinction, and they were not just the washerwoman's children.