Here is the answer and explanation to the question What role does class consciousness play in Mansfield’s “The Doll’s House”?
What role does class consciousness play in Mansfield’s “The Doll’s House”?
Class consciousness plays a very important role in Mansfield’s “The Doll’s House.” The children’s toy of the title is a symbol of the wealth and high social status that the Burnell family enjoys. Mrs. Burnell insists that the poor Kelvey sisters are not allowed anywhere near the doll’s house, as they are from the lower classes. It’s as if their presence at the Burnell residence would somehow lower the tone of the neighborhood.
At the time when Katherine Mansfield wrote “The Doll’s House,” English society was incredibly class-conscious. Though much more fluid than in previous eras, the social structure was still relatively rigid overall, with everyone expected to know their place in society.
The Burnell family’s matriarch, Mrs. Burnell, is about as class-conscious as they come. A total snob, she regards herself as superior to those less fortunate than herself, those who occupy the lowest rungs of the social ladder.
This explains her appalling attitude to the Kelvey sisters, poverty-stricken daughters of an alleged criminal. Mrs. Burnell is so conscious of her elevated position in society that she refuses to allow the Kelvey sisters to come round and have a look at her daughters’ doll’s house.
Mrs. Burnell seems to think that the presence of Else and Lil will somehow lower the tone of the entire neighborhood and will reflect badly on her. And in any case, the doll’s house, this expensive toy, is not for those, like the Kelvey sisters, who hail from the wrong side of the tracks.
Thanks to Mrs. Burnell’s class consciousness and snobbery, the doll’s house is transformed from a harmless toy into a symbol of wealth, privilege, and high social status.
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