What is the significance of the names used in Katherine Mansfield's "The Doll's House"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the ways in which the central theme of "The Doll's House" is established and confirmed throughout this fascinating tale is through the use of names. We are presented in this short story with a microcosm of society that gives us a slice of all classes of life in one setting:

For the fact was, 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. And the consequence was all the children in the neighbourhood, the Judge's little girls, the doctor's daughters, the storekeeper's children, the milkman's, were forced to mix together.

Thus, society and its importance and those that are "included" and "excluded" from society are established as vital themes. The "line had to be drawn somewhere," we are told, and it was drawn at the Kelveys. What is interesting about their first names is that they are shortened versions of their names - a diminutive version, unlike the way that the Burnell children are referred to. Thus by calling them "Lil" and "our Else," this is another way of patronising them and making fun of them and also indicating that they do not belong to the world of the Burnell's.

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