Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) was a contemporary and a rival of Virginia Woolf. She was born and raised in New Zealand, contracted tuberculosis in World War I, and died at 34. Her story, "The Doll's House" (1922) was first published in The Nation & the Antheneum. It is seemingly simple and straightforward, and begins:
"When dear old Mrs. Hay went back to town after staying with the Burnells she sent the children a doll's house."
The house, described in some detail with emphasis on a tiny lamp, is cause for great excitement. The three Burnell children cannot wait to tell their classmates about it. Isabel, the eldest, said she would be the first to tell, but the other two might "join in after".
"There was nothing to answer. Isabel was bossy, but she was always right, and Lottie and Kezia knew too well the powers that went with being the eldest."
As the other children are told, they gather in a ring around the Burnells. They will be allowed to visit the doll's house in groups of two.
"And the only two who stayed outside the ring were the two who were always outside, the little Kelveys. They knew better than to come anywhere near the Burnells."
As bits of the Kelvey's history were presented, my heart grew heavier. Lil and "our" Else have not had an easy time of it. The story builds to a climax as their opportunity to view the doll's house presents itself.
The most striking feature in "A Doll's House" is that all the children seem to be so aware and accepting of social hierarchy - within the family, at school, and in the village. That leaves the reader with plenty to think about. You can read "A Doll's House" here.
Short Story Monday is hosted by John at The Book Mine Set.