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Katherine Mansfield: The Dolls House, content, characters, Vocabular

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By Katherine Mansfield

Katherin Mansfield was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1888. Her father was a banker and he sent her to London where she attended Queen´s College. In 1909 she married a musician. She left him and in1918 she married a famous literacy critic, Murry. She wrote many stories “Bliss And Other Stories“, “The Garden Party“, “The Dove´s Nest“ and some other well known stories. She died in 1923 in Paris.

“The Doll´s House“ is almost autobiographical; the storie tells about her aunt and about other people.


Mrs. Hay sends the Burnell children(Isabel, Kezia, Lottie) , after staying with the Burnells, a doll´s house. Everybody likes it except aunt Beryl because she can not stand the smell of the paint. Kezia likes the small lamp best. On the next day at school Isabel(the elder one) boast about their new doll´s house and all the girls crowd around her and flatter her. But there are the Kelveys: they are the only one who stands outside this ring because the parents of the other children told them not to talk to with Lisa and “Our Else“(the Kelveys) because they are lower class people; Their mother is only a washerwoman and their father is in prison.

And then someday everyone has senn the doll´s house except them. And so Kezia asks her mother if the Kelveys are allowed to see the house, but her mother says only a “Certainly not“. But Lil, the older sister, and Else come one day to the Burnells, where Kezia plays with her house. She says that they can come in. They play together and Else is really fascinated by the this tiny lamp. Then aunt Beryl comes and told the Kelveys to go away with her cold and proud voice. When Lil and Else are out of sight they sat down to rest. “I saw the lamp“ Kezia said softly.


Describe the relationship between the Burnell sisters and that between the two Kelvey sisters.

Burnells: Isabel thinks that she is the boss because she is the eldest She tells their sisters what they have to do. She like her mother because she allowes her to do most. Her sisters think that it is okay.

Kelvey´s: Lil goes always first and our Else always holds on to her. Lil never forces her will upon her smaller sister. They have not got anybody to talk, they can only talk to each other.

What do Lil and “Our Else“ look like?

Else wears a long, white dress and a pair of boots.

Lil wears an ugly dress and everybody laughs about her.

How does Aunt Beryl treat them when she sees them standing in front of the doll´s house? What are the reasons of her behaviour?

Aunt Beryl sounds cold and proud and she shoos the Kelveys out because their family is very poor and she can not stand people from lower classes.

What is the roll of the grown ups in this story?

Aunt Beryl: She is a very cold and proud person; she is false because she tells the children not to talk to lower class people but she has an affair with a lower class man. She is guardining the morality and desency, the establish the social norms- without a reason.

Others:They have a great self esteem because of looking down on others. They are hard and mercyless, pretended to be charitable. They inplant hatred and prejured in their children

Mrs. Kelvey: She represents the underprivileged class, she works hard, she is deposied, she is modest and not respected.

What do Kezia and Else have in common?

Both are the youngest member in their family. They have not adopte the adult patten of behaviour. They do not draw a line between different sozial classes. Both are very sensitive and they like the lamp best because they get a good feeling when they look on this lamp. Kezia suffer from her surrounding; Our Else suffer from material problems. Else is called little owl because of her cleverness and understanding.


There are some different points of view:

The point of view can shift:

The point of view can be periphery:

The point of view can be from above:

In this story:

The story is mostly written in the point of view of the children.



· Old Mrs. Hay had been stayind with the Burnells.

· The hook at the side was stuck fast.

· The children stood there gazing at the little house.

· There were pictures on the walls.

· The Burnell girls burned to boast about their doll´s house.

· Lottie an Kezia knew the powers that went with being eldest.

· They were allowed to ask the girls at school two at a time, to come to look.

· By the time they had reached the school the bell had began to jangle.

· Isabel tried to make up for it by looking very important.

· In the playground and on the road there was Lil marching in front and our Else holding on to her.

· Emmie nodded to Isabel as she had seen her mother do on those occasions.

· Thegirls were deeply excited, wild with joy.

Adjective or adverb?

· The smell of paint made Aunt Beryl feel seriously ill.

· There were two solid little chimneys glued on to the roof.

· Who could possible mind the smell of such a little house.

· It was much more exciting than peering through the slit of a door.

· What Kezia liked frightfully was the lamp.

Replace the word(s) in bold type!

· The father and the mother dolls looked as if they had fainted(become unconscious).

· The Burnell children wanted to boast(brag) about their new doll´s house.

· As the Burnells decided what was fashionable(determined) in all matters of behaviour, the Kelveys were shunned(avioded) by everybody.

· Our Else was always clutching(holding on) at her sister´s dress.

· When Kezia mentioned the lamp nobody paied any attention(cared).

· Giggling(laughing in a silly way) Lena went over to the Kelveys.

· Lena hated(couldn´t stand) Lil´s shamefaced smile.

· The little Kelveys were astouded(overcome with surprise).

· Our Else was looking at her sister with big emploring(begging) eyes.

· Pat removed(took off) the hook.


to prop up

to support, to keep in position


vegetables whose green leaves are eaten(Spinat)

to gleam

to shine brightly


hard shining coating on the surface of s.th. (Überzug)


built -out roofed doorway(entrance)to a building


mass of something

to peer

to look closely, as if unable to see well


small bed for a baby


a pot with a handle and a lip for pouring liquids

to sprawl

to sit or lie with the arms and legs spread out loosely

to boast

to brag, to show off


fond of giving orders

to beam

to smile happily

to flatter

to praise on s.th. insincerely in order to please

to giggle

to laugh in a silly way


impolite, wild

to shun

to avoid


plump or fat


ordinary, not pretty


spots on the face caused by sunburn

to crop

to cut short


sudden hard pull

to sneer

to smile in a mocking fashion that expresses proud dislike


a long, very high cry

to slide

to move your feet over a smooth surface without lifting them(as on ice)

to glide

to move along in a slow and graceful fashion

to titter

to give a silly, half-supressed laugh(kichern)

to hiss

to make a nasty sibilant(s-sound) whisper through th teeth


hateful, laughing at the misfortune of others


small pot

to clamber

to climb with some difficulty


overcome(shocked) with surprise

to implore

to plead, to ask s.o. in a begging manner

to gasp

to catch the breathe suddenly and in a way that can be heard

to frown

to draw the eyebrowns together

to snort

to make a noise by blowing air violently out through the nose

to give a start

to make a quick uncontrolled movement, as from sudden surprise and fear




bad, immoral

to slam

to shut(a door) violently and noisily

to give a scolding

to blame with angry words

to hum

to sing with closed lips


backwater, a long narrow body of water reaching from the sea, a lake etc. into the land

to stroke

to pass one´s hand over gently(cats like being stroked)


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