Here, we will focus on Kezia Burnell; on Isabel Burnell and Aunt Beryl, as they are some of the most important characters in “The Doll’s House” by Katherine Mansfield. When we will discuss them, we will also mention Emmie Cole and Lena Logan – the two school girls who mock the Kelveys – as they are important for the way in which class distinction is observed by children.
Kezia Burnell is the youngest of the Burnell sisters and the one who acts kindly towards the Kelveys. Her outer characterisation reveals that she has two other sisters (Isabel and Lottie), but nothing more about her physical appearance is mentioned. However, the following fragment indicates that Kezia is probably not concerned with looks and appearances, as she avoids being inside the house and entertaining a guest: “In the afternoon Pat called for the Burnell children with the buggy and they drove home. There were visitors. Isabel and Lottie, who liked visitors, went upstairs to change their pinafores. But Kezia thieved out at the back.”
In terms of inner characterisation, Kezia comes across as very different from her sisters – especially from Isabel. While Isabel is bossy and condescending, Kezia is kind and shyer than her sister. Also, Kezia is ignored by her older sister and other colleagues: ““The lamp’s best of all,” cried Kezia. She thought Isabel wasn’t making half enough of the little lamp. But nobody paid attention. Isabel was choosing the two who were to come back with them that afternoon and see it.”
Kezia also comes across as easily impressionable and quite a dreamer, as the only thing that fascinates her in the doll’s house is the detailed lamp:
Isabell Burnell is the eldest of the Burnell sisters and the one who seems to be the most popular in school. Like her sisters, she is not depicted in terms of outer characterisation, as she is more important because of the views she represents regarding social status.
When she and her sisters receive the doll’s house, she is equally excited. However, at school, Isabel shows that she is bossy and domineering both over her sisters and over others:
Aunt Beryl functions as the antagonist in the short story, but only for a little while. In fact, she is the representative of the higher class and illustrates how social injustice works. When she notices that Kezia has shared the view of the doll’s house with two poor girls, Aunt Beryl lashes out at them. Her behaviour clearly shows that she views the Kelvey sisters as poor and unworthy of seeing something as beautiful and expensive as the doll’s house, but also that she criticises Kezia for not being aware of class differences: