The story centres round the three Burnell sisters - Isabel, Lottie and Kezia. They are given a large doll´s house, which for those times was a marvellous, luxurious toy that delights them, impresses their friends at school and makes them very popular. The Burnells are a rich family who live in an area of New Zealand which is in the outskirts. Their area only has one school so this means that all children, whatever their background or financial state, attend the same school. The sisters invite all of their schoolmates to their home to see and play with the doll´s house except the two Kelvey daughters, who are practically social outcasts in the story. At school everyone joins in shunning Else and Lil Kelvey because of their low social position.
One day, however, the youngest Burnell sister sees the Kelvey´s passing buy and lets them in to see the Doll´s House. They are interrupted by a ferocious Aunt Beryl, who scolds Kezia and throws the Kelveys out. However, in spite of this violent ejection, Else Kelvey is apparently deeply struck by the chance she had to see the Doll´s House and in particular the lamp.
As hopefully you can see, themes of social class and position are key to this novel. The Doll´s House becomes a kind of symbol of class structure, with the Burnell´s controlling access to it, and only letting chosen friends see it. The Kelveys as outcasts are admitted to see it almost by accident. The lamp in particular of the Doll´s House seems to represent equality or the light of human kindness.