What happens in The Doll's House?

In "The Doll's House," the three Burnell sisters receive a beautiful dollhouse. Their parents forbid them to show the dollhouse to the Kelvey sisters, because the Kelveys are poor. One day, however, Kezia Burnell grows bored at a party and decides to invite the Kelveys inside anyway.

  • A houseguest gives Isabel, Lottie, and Kezia a big, beautiful dollhouse, which they leave in the courtyard so its paint smell can dissipate. Kezia is particularly taken with the miniature oil lamp inside the dollhouse.

  • The wealthy Burnell sisters, already popular at school, become even more so thanks to this dollhouse. Their parents allow them to bring their friends home two by two to see their new dollhouse.

  • The Burnell girls are forbidden to show the dollhouse to the Kelvey girls, the daughters of a rumored criminal. One day, Kezia breaks this rule when she leaves her parents' boring party and sees the Kelveys walking past.

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Summary

Katherine Mansfield’s short story “The Doll’s House” commences when Mrs. Hay, a previous guest of the Burnell family, sends the Burnell daughters a magnificent dollhouse. The house is beautifully decorated and comes with four dolls, but the dolls are too big and don’t look right for the house. However, the girls are captivated by the house’s tiny accessories, from paintings with tiny gold frames to a realistic miniature lamp.

Isabel Burnell declares to her younger sisters, Lottie and Kezia, that she will be the one to tell everyone at school about the dollhouse because she’s the oldest. Isabel is also given the right to choose the first pair of schoolmates to come over to see the dollhouse. At playtime, all the schoolgirls crowd around to hear Isabel’s news. Isabel describes the house and all its glories, especially the lamp. Else and Lil Kelvey, listening from afar, know not to come close to the other children; as the daughters of a local washerwoman and an absent father, they have been ordered to stay away from the other girls. 

As the days go by, more and more children come over to see the house. The girls compete for Isabel’s attention, hoping to earn the right to see the house sooner and to be close friends with the Burnell girls because of their status. Kezia asks to invite the Kelvey girls to see the dollhouse, but Mrs. Burnell flatly refuses. When everyone has seen the dollhouse except the Kelveys, Isabel and her friends friends flaunt their superiority by encouraging a schoolmate, Lena, to bully them: she asks if Lil will be a servant when she grows up and taunts her about her father. The girls then run away from Lil and Else, excited by having insulted the Kelveys and “wild with joy.” 

One night, Kezia sees the Kelveys walking on the road past the Burnell home and invites them into the courtyard to see the dollhouse. Lil refuses the invitation twice, insisting that she and her sister have been told to not go near the Burnell girls. Else’s “imploring eyes,” however, convince her to...

(The entire section is 1,099 words.)