This story begins with the Burnell family receiving a doll house from Mrs. Hay. They left it in the backyard because it smelled so strongly of paint. The house is so tiny and perfect and adorable that the children are able to look over the terrible smell though. They unhook the house, and it opens from the side, so that we are able to get a peek into every room of the house. Not only was everything perfect on the outside, but the inside was intricately detailed and guess what.. Perfect. Shocker. Keiza says that her favorite thing about the house is the tiny little lamp. She thinks the dolls are a little too big for the house, and a little too stiff, but the light is perfect with its little moving oil on the inside. The next day, the Burnell children were so excited to tell everyone about their new house. Isabel is telling the other girls, Kieza and Lottie that she going to be the one to tell everyone about the house, and invite two people to come over to see it. That’s right. I said “see” it, because no other child is allowed to play with the house. By lunchtime all of these girls come around to listen to Isabel talk about her magnificent new doll house. We then learn that the Burnells are classy: the only reason they are going to this school is because it’s the only school around for miles. So their are people of mixed… “social classes” within the school. While the Burnells were the highest class of the story, the Kelvey’s are the lowest. Most kids wouldn’t even speak to them and they turned their noses up at them! (kids are the worst). Their mother was a washerwoman and their father was supposedly in jail, no one really knew. The two Kelvey girls were named Lil and Else. They wore tattered clothing and just looked ratty. Lil never really smiles and Else doesn’t talk, just holds onto Lil’s skirt and uses that almost as a form of communication.
Back to the playground, so the Kelvey girls were also listening in on Isabell talking about her doll house. Isabel tells all of the girls about the house and invites the two girls over. They fawn over her and whatever, and eventually, every person comes over and sees the house but the Kelvey girls. One night over dinner, Kezia asks her mother if she can please have the Kelvey girls over to come look at the house, but her mother says no and that’s the end of it.
The next day Isabell is sitting with two people: Jessie May and Lena Logan, and Miss Lena (the brat) says that she thinks that Lil is going to be a servant when she grows up. Jessie dares Lena to go tell Lil this (even though Lil was the one who sort of propositioned it) and Lena goes up to Lil and tells her “you’re going to be a servant.” Oh, dear old Lil just smiles and acts like it doesn’t affect her, which pisses Lena off until she screams that their daddy is in prison. The Kelvey’s are ashamed and run away. The three girls felt so powerful afterwards. That afternoon, the Burnell children are at home when Kieza sees the Kelvey girls walking her way. She invites them in to see the house, but Lil tells her that she doesn’t want to get in trouble. Else tugs on Lil’s skirt, so they go in to see the house, and they think it’s beautiful. However, Aunt Beryl comes in and screams at the Kelvey girls and leave and talks to them basically like they’re animals. Then she yells at Kieza, and she feels better afterwards, almost powerful. We go to the Kelvey’s house and the two girls are talking, and we end with Else smiling and saying she saw the lamp.
Chronic: this sort of idea of status, and everyone beating each other down to feel better.
Acute: Could be either the scene where Lena goes off on the Kelveys or the Aunt going off on them, more so the aunt though.
I thought the power struggle that is seen throughout the entire piece is what really pulled me in. I also thought it was interesting how we see this idea of class and need for power from adults to children. Aunt Beryl goes off on the Kelveys and Keiza because she had gotten a threatening letter from this man that said he was going to her door if she didn’t meet up with him, and she had wanted to feel powerful. Isabell immediately shows off her power by stating she is the oldest therefore she should be the one who tells people everything. You see the harshness that can come from children when they tease the Kelveys during recess. It’s just these little moments of cruelty I think that are what pulled me in. And that it was a little girl who was able to see passed it all. Also, this was not only shown through her actions of inviting the girls in, but the fact that her favorite thing in the house is this light bulb. She doesn’t care about its extravagance. The detailed walls and miniature furniture, but the lightbulb. Light = symbol of enlightenment. Not a very elaborate metaphor but whatever. Oh my gosh though, the fact that Elsie said she saw the lamp, as in she saw someone who was able to see passed all of this class BS was such a beautiful ending. It made it an almost semi-happy ending!
I was also intrigued by the differences in the relationships within the Kelveys family and the Burnell’s. The Kelvey girls are close: communicate in public in a way that isn’t verbal. They just get each other, and it’s through these small actions. However, the Burnells, who do talk to each other, are so focused on this whole power struggle going on within their families that they don’t really see past that. None of the other girls understand what Kieza means when she talks about the lamp. They just think it’s cool that there is oil in it, when there is SO MUCH MORE!
I loved this non-complex metaphor thing going on. How it was brought up throughout the piece and wasn’t slap you in the face obvious, but also wasn’t so deep you could dig to China and not see it. I also love the idea of the power struggle trickling down from adult to children. Maybe I wouldn’t use the whole power thing, but I just love the idea of the butterfly affect/people who learn from observing the behavior of others. I think that would create a nice tension in any piece.