‘‘The Doll’s House’’ is told from a third-person point of view. The narrator is not a character within the story, one who would speak of herself or himself as ‘‘I’’ or ‘‘me,’’ but is instead an outside observer, reporting on all of the characters as ‘‘he’’ or ‘‘she.’’ Frequently, third-person narrators will limit themselves to conveying the thoughts and impressions of just one character, viewing the action of the story from a single perspective. In this story, however, the narrative perspective changes often. Readers are told what Aunt Beryl, the Burnell sisters, and the Kelvey sisters are thinking. Sometimes the narration does not go into the characters’ minds, however, instead conveying what they think by offering precise, detailed descriptions of their actions.
The narrator’s omniscient point of view is not entirely consistent, however. Else Kelvey is consistently referred to as ‘‘our Else.’’ This nearly brings the narrator into the story, creating a character who has a relationship to Else and the other characters. Aside from this one linguistic twist, there are no other clues of the narrator’s personality. The use of the word ‘‘our’’ is alone in establishing the narrator as a character, while the rest of the narration is from the omniscient point of view.
Mansfield uses the lamp in the doll’s house as a symbol. It clearly means something to Kezia Burnell. Though that meaning is not directly explained, readers can tell from Kezia’s association of the lamp with a smile and the phrase ‘‘I live here’’ that the lamp’s significance has something to do with an unfulfilled need to belong. Like most symbols in literature, its precise meaning is open to interpretation, so that different readers will understand it differently. At the end of the story, the importance that Kezia places on the lamp is shared by Else Kelvey. Else is proud that, in spite of being treated badly by the Burnells’ Aunt Beryl, she has managed to sneak a look at the lamp. The story does not say what the lamp means to Else or even hint at whether its meaning is the same for her as it is for Kezia, but Else does share Kezia’s enthusiasm for it, so it clearly means something to her.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 29, Katherine Mansfield, Published by Gale Group, 2001.