What does Leila’s reaction tell you about her?
Leila is young. The reactions she featured to her first ball are consistent with those of young people and the sense of excitement that comes along with being youthful. She regales at the beauty, a beauty that she, herself, is an active part. When she is told that she is the "belle of the ball," her reaction is to take it as a source of pride. She is thrilled at being included. Lelia's self- consciousness reflects that she recognizes her participation in this ball is a bit out of her element. Raised in the country, she could hardly have envisioned herself here. She is excited to be there, as she is overwhelmed with the moment. She watches the other couples dance and is exuberant at the idea that she is a part of this collection of individuals. It is a triumph that she is there, something that overwhelms the disillusioning reality that accompanies it.
Leila's reactions reflect how much she is willing to embrace the illusion and the veneer of happiness. Even if she understands that the fat man was right and that there is nothing to prevent her from getting old, she will not let that take away from this moment, this instant, and what she embraces as the urgency of now. It is Mansfield's genius to show that Lelila's reactions to the ball are not going to be overcome with the reality of human cruelty and disillusion that is intrinsic to being in the world. Leila's reaction is to deny, to keep at arm's length, what she knows to be true. In this, Leila demonstrates youth, but also a condition of being human in our tendency to block out and keep at bay that which we find fundamentally uncomfortable.