(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator of this story begins with an admission: “I worry about it still, even today, thirty odd years later.” The object of her worry is a child’s golden ring “set with five little turquoises.” It was given to the narrator for her eighth birthday by a family friend of whom she was so fond that she thought of her as her aunt. The ring was special not only because it was purchased especially for the narrator by a favorite relative but also because the ring was said to have belonged to Austria’s Empress Elisabeth.

The ring is so beautiful and precious that immediately the little girl’s nurse declares that it cannot be worn outside to play. This only makes the child want to defy her nurse: “For nobody—certainly not she—could understand the love I had for that ring, and the absolute impossibility of my ever losing anything so precious.”

She does indeed wear the ring out to play in her playhouse. Attaining a playhouse is “a sort of victory” for the narrator as a little girl. She has envied the playhouse of their only neighbors, which was built especially for their little girl Mimi. Mimi’s playhouse is a miniature cottage complete with shuttered windows, a shingled roof, and a brass knocker that says “Mimi.” It is furnished with a miniature table and chairs and real Dresden china made just for children’s tea parties.

The narrator, too, must have a playhouse, but her family cannot and will not build one to rival Mimi’s, for...

(The entire section is 611 words.)