What are the themes in "The Doll's House" by Katherine Mansfield?

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One of the themes in this short story centers around the idea that every person ultimately craves inclusion.

The Kelvey girls are excluded from the social circles at school because of their poverty. They are "always by themselves," and the other girls ridicule them about their prospects of becoming...

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One of the themes in this short story centers around the idea that every person ultimately craves inclusion.

The Kelvey girls are excluded from the social circles at school because of their poverty. They are "always by themselves," and the other girls ridicule them about their prospects of becoming servants when they grow up. They endure the mocking jeers of Lena, who drags one foot behind her, giggling behind her hand, as she attempts to engage Lil Kelvey in demeaning conversation. And every other girl gets invited to see the glorious doll house except the Kelvey girls.

They don't beg for an invitation like the other girls because they are used to rejection and exclusion. Yet when a chance opportunity presents itself, they follow Kezia "like two little stray cats" to share in the same experience that the other girls have enjoyed.

Even after being chased off the property by Aunt Beryl, the Kelvey girls look "dreamily" across the land in front of them, still focused on the "little lamp" in the doll's house which they had temporarily been granted access to. Else "smiled her rare smile" at the memory of the house. For just a moment, the sisters were included in a society which only treats them with scorn, and the memory of that inclusion is enough to allow hope to creep into their souls, however fleeting. The doll's house symbolizes the access to inclusion inherent in any society and therefore the exclusion that some constantly face.

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Certainly, the story seems to convey the theme that hate and prejudice are learned rather than inherent. Kezia Burnell, for example, seems not to have inherited or imbibed the proud and scornful attitude of the adults in her family and even her oldest sister. Her mother flatly refuses her compassionate request to invite the Kelveys over after all the other children have seen the doll's house, and her Aunt Beryl cruelly runs them off as though they were somehow dangerous. Even the other girls at school seem to enjoy picking on them and belittling them; however, Kezia's refusal to join in this cruel exclusion proves that these behaviors are not fundamental parts of our nature but, rather, something we adopt in order to fit in or make ourselves feel better about our own lives.

The story also seems to convey a theme regarding the innocence of children and their uncanny ability to see beauty rather than ugliness. The Burnell girls seem not to notice the terrible paint smell of the doll's house or even the yellow paint "congealed" around the porch or the latch painted shut; they only see its beauty and magic. The Kelvey girls also quickly forget Kezia's aunt's terribly proud and mean words to them and recall only "Dreamily" their experience of seeing the doll's house. Little Else is just glad to have seen the tiny, perfect oil lamp that so enraptured Kezia as well.

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"The Doll's House", by Katherine Mansfield, is a story that treats the topics of social inequality, injustice, money as a tool of power, the shallowness of human dynamics.

Social inequality, although not in itself a rarity, is treated from the perspective of adults and the way that they teach their children to distance themselves from others based on social status. The wealthy Burnell girls receive a very unique and expensive gift: the rare scale-model doll house that other little girls would only dream to have. However, it is the adults (the Burnell's mother) who teaches the girls that there is such a thing as being different; in her case, she instills in the girls the feeling that, just by social ranking, they are superior.

"Mother," said Kezia, "can't I ask the Kelveys just once?"
"Certainly not, Kezia."
"But why not?"
"Run away, Kezia; you know quite well why not."

Injustice comes in the form of how the other girls view and treat the Kelveys just for being poor. The Kelveys are teased and verbally abused because they are the daughters of a washerwoman and an unknown father.

"Is it true you're going to be a servant when you grow up, Lil Kelvey?" shrilled Lena.
Dead silence. But instead of answering, Lil only gave her silly, shame-faced smile.

In the story, money is the powerful tool that defines happiness and popularity. The girls with money ate together at school enjoying mutton sandwiches and jelly cakes. The Kelvey's on the other hand, sat together and ate their blobbed jam sandwiches.  The Kelveys also lacked the means to wear nice clothes and all that they wore were ill-fitting hand-me-downs. This is how money differentiates a good life from a miserable one. 

Finally, the shallowness of human dynamics is treated from the perspective of the girls at school. They all befriended the Burnells for the sake of the doll's house. The Burnell's aunt Beryl kicked the Kelveys out of the house simply because of the reputation that the people have unfairly bestowed upon them. Still it is interesting that it is Kezia Burnell who invites the Kelveys to see the doll's house regardless of all the negative things that she has been told.

Your ma told our ma you wasn't to speak to us."
"Oh, well," said Kezia. She didn't know what to reply. "It doesn't matter. You can come and see our doll's house all the same. Come on. Nobody's looking."

Therefore, the topics in the story include money as it affects human dynamics and in the way that it diffentiates one another.

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