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Symbolism in the Dolls House

By hstrecker Dec 18, 2010 818 Words
Symbolism in The Doll’s House

Katherine Mansfield’s The Doll’s House, clearly illustrates the symbolic journey of

Kezia as she wanders in her childhood purity. The symbolic relationship that Kezia

develops with the lamp in The Doll’s House, is critical to the development of the plot. In

addition, the depiction of Kezia, provides a contrasting outlook on English hierarchy.

To begin, the Burnell Children receive a doll’s house from Mrs. Hay. As the two

eldest Burnell children take admiration to the red plush chairs and carpet, perfected

windows, and golden pieces of the house, Kezia, the youngest, is mesmerized by the

simplicity of the lamp. This is exemplified when Kezia thinks to herself, “But the lamp

was perfect. It seemed to smile at Kezia, to say, “I live here”. The lamp was real”

(Mansfield 119). Kezia’s enchantment of the lamp symbolizes her absence of

adornment for materialistic items, opposed to her sisters. As the story progresses,

Kezia continues to disapprove of the superficial parts of the doll’s house and cannot see

why the others do not see the beauty of the lamp. This is clearly illustrated when Kezia

cries out, “The lamps best of all”. She thought Isabel wasn’t making half enough of the

little lamp. But nobody would pay attention” (Mansfield 121). Issues continue to occur

with the others, due to Kezia’s indifferent ways. Once Kezia falls in love with the lamp,

however, it is foreshadowing the events to come.

Next, Kezia’s innocence leads her to make friends with the Kelvey’s, in whom

from an economic standpoint, are ignored. Like the lamp, Kezia does not follow the

normality of things around her in her English society. For instance, everywhere in town,

“They walked past the Kelvey’s with their heads in the air, and as they set the fashion in

all matters of behaviour, the Kelvey’s were shunned by everybody” (Mansfield 120).

Due to the class distinction of the Kelvey’s, Kezia is forbidden to speak to the Kelvey’s.

However, Kezia does not follow the rest of her English society, and overlooks the

appearance of the Kelvey’s and the rumors everyone says about them. It is evident that

Kezia does not follow the others when she tells the Kelvey’s, “You can come and see

our doll’s house if you want to” (Mansfield 122). By Kezia inviting the Kelvey girls to see

the doll’s house, she visibly displays her kind-hearted simplistic character, that if she

was to be an object, would be a simple lamp like the Kelvey’s. Therefore, despite

everyone’s unjustified threats towards Kezia, she lets the simplicity of the lamp guide

her to have a moral conscience in not excluding the Kelvey’s.

Finally, the Kelvey’s are similar to Kezia, for they both notice the simplistic things

in life and are not overly consumed by materialistic ones. Kezia senses the inner

purity of the Kelvey’s and ultimately decides to invite them to see the doll’s house. Yet,

when the Kelvey’s have the chance to catch a mere glimpse of the doll’s house,

they are quickly “shooed out as if they were chickens” (Mansfield 123) by Kezia’s Aunt

Beryl. In spite of that, the Kelvey’s are still able to see the lamp, the most important

object in the entire doll’s house. The Kelvey’s, like Kezia, see beauty in the most

unembellished things in life. When Else, one of the Kelvey sister’s says, “I seen the

little lamp” (Mansfield 123), the symbolism of the lamp is established. At this point,

Mansfield successfully conveys the overall message of the hope against discrimination.

Thus, this hope, symbolized through the lamp, is a connection that brings Kezia closer

to the Kelvey’s, in realizing their similar views.

In conclusion, the symbolism of the lamp, that stems from Kezia and leads to the

Kelvey’s, distinctly shows the divide and constant battle between rich and poor.

Materialism in our world also shows how perplex it is for many humans to surpass the

ever-constant greed man has towards material items. Seeing past the obvious beauties

in life is a complex obstacle to conquer in The Doll’s House, that only Kezia and

the Kelvey’s are able to do. Both working together to fight this battle, therefore

represent a lamp constantly searching for energy and hope to renew its light when it

fades. In this case, the new light source was Kezia, who was seeking for an answer to

help the Kelvey’s. Hence, the simplistic lamp represents the bonded connection that

Kezia develops with the Kelvey’s, through the sightless faith of those around them, in

the midst of their pure hearts.

Works Cited

Mansfield, Katherine. The Broadview Anthology of Short Fiction: The Doll’s House.

Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2004. Print.

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