To what extent is the contet of social division shown in "The Doll's House" by Katherine Mansfield?How does the context (setting/environment) of the text affect how the story and characters deal...

To what extent is the contet of social division shown in "The Doll's House" by Katherine Mansfield?

How does the context (setting/environment) of the text affect how the story and characters deal with social division

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Katherine Mansfield's story "The Doll's House" depicts life in two separate and distant social classes: The very wealthy rich and the very unfortunate poor coexisting as children in a school.

The characters of Isabel, Kezia and Lottie Burnell are three privileged little girls who receive the gift of a gorgeous dollhouse from a house-guest, upon the latter's departure. This house is a perfect scale model of a mansion, complete with its wallpaper, furniture, and especially a miniature oil lamp who looks so real that it becomes the favorite feature of Kezia.

The girls live comfortably within their social circle, but Mansfield quickly changes the setting in order to show us how the girls live their everyday lives in contact with children of every walk of life in their school setting. It is in this setting where the real social division occurs, as the children of the privileged are aware of the huge differences between themselves and the others.

...the school the Burnell children went to was not at all the kind of place their parents would have chosen if there had been any choice. But there was none. It was the only school for miles. ..[...] the judge's little girls, the doctor's daughters, the store-keeper's children, the milkman's, were forced to mix together. [...] But the line had to be drawn somewhere. It was drawn at the Kelveys.

The Kelveys are a pair of very poor girls who receive the consistent humilliation of being called out for looking as poor as they are. They are the daughters of a washerwoman and a man who is thought to be in jail. They are considered the worst of the worst, and the sociology that is the school community of children ensure that they feel like outcasts as a result of their social status.

Many of the children, including the Burnells, were not allowed even to speak to them. They walked past the Kelveys with their heads in the air, and as they set the fashion in all matters of behaviour, the Kelveys were shunned by everybody.

This is basically how social division is shown in the story "The Doll'shouse". The division occurs in the school where children come from families whose prejudices are bestowed upon them. As a result, they bring these same prejudices to school where they interact with other kids and develop their own versions of mini-societies. Unfortunately, even in the world of children, society has a lower end. That lower end will always be the Kelvey sisters.


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