The Doll’s House is a short story written by Katherine Mansfield, a prominent New Zealand author known for her modernist style and exploration of themes related to class, society, and human nature. Published in 1922, the story is set in New Zealand and revolves around the Burnell family and their new dollhouse.

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  • “The Doll’s House” is part of Katherine Mansfield’s larger body of work, which often delves into the complexities of social hierarchies, family dynamics, and the impact of societal norms on individual lives.
  • The story is set in New Zealand during the early 20th century when the country was still a British colony. Class distinctions and social expectations were significant features of society during this period.

Narrative Writing Prompts


  • The Burnell family receives a beautiful dollhouse as a gift. The dollhouse is a replica of a grand English mansion and is exquisitely detailed, complete with tiny pieces of furniture and dolls.
  • The dollhouse becomes the talk of the town, and the Burnell children, particularly Kezia, Isabel, and Lottie, are immensely proud of it. However, their mother instructs them not to show it to the Kelvey sisters, Else and Lil Kelvey, who are from a lower social class and are ostracized by the other children.
  • Kezia, the youngest of the Burnell children, is empathetic and feels sorry for the Kelvey sisters. She secretly shows them the dollhouse, an act of kindness that leads to social repercussions.
  • When the Kelvey sisters are discovered viewing the dollhouse, the other children react with disdain, and the Burnell children are reprimanded by their mother. The story ends with Kezia’s deep sadness at the unfair treatment of the Kelvey sisters and her longing for a more compassionate and inclusive world.


  • “The Doll’s House” is a poignant exploration of social class and exclusion. The dollhouse symbolizes the Burnell family’s social status and privilege, while the Kelvey sisters represent the marginalized and excluded members of society. The story highlights the cruelty of social hierarchies and the impact of prejudice on individuals.
  • The character of Kezia serves as the moral centre of the story. Her empathy and desire to connect with the Kelvey sisters stand in contrast to the other children’s adherence to societal norms. Her actions reveal the arbitrariness of social distinctions and the potential for kindness and compassion to transcend them.
  • Katherine Mansfield’s modernist style is evident in the story’s subtle narrative techniques and focus on the internal thoughts and emotions of the characters. The story delves into the inner world of Kezia, revealing her complex feelings of empathy, sadness, and frustration.
  • “The Doll’s House” is a critique of the rigid social structures and prejudices of its time, and it continues to resonate with readers for its timeless themes of empathy, injustice, and the longing for a more inclusive society.

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