Student Question

What is the inciting incident in "The Doll's House" by Katherine Mansfield?

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The inciting incident in this brilliant short story is outlined to us in the first few lines of the tale, when we see the way in which a gift can be used to heighten social divisions and differences amongst a community that consists of people from all kinds of different backgrounds:

When dear old Mrs. Hay went back to town after staying with the Burnells she sent the children a doll's house. It was so big that the carter and Pat carried it into the courtyard, and there it stayed, propped up on two wooden boxes behind the feed-room door.

It is this apparently innocuous gift that is skilfully used by Mansfield to highlight the social divisions in this small community and which allows her to comment shrewdly upon society and in particular in the way that children very quickly and swiftly learn that social class is something that prevents human communion and that it is a barrier that stops us communicating with everybody else as equals. The way in which the Kelveys are treated and excluded by the girls in the school, except for Keziah, clearly displays this fact.

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