Katherine Mansfield's Her First Ball
Writing From A Woman’s World
Everything is so magical, exactly the way it is in fairyland. Leila, Katherine Mansfield’s main character in the short story, “Her First Ball”, is absolutely breath-taken at every sight and sound at the ball. Everything around her is so strikingly new and enthralling. It is Leila’s first ball, and her first exposition to society.
Mansfield describes the young girl’s emotions and excitement in a way that incarcerates her readers in the quaint fantasy world of Leila, and within the damsel’s spinning cyclone of different feelings and emotions.
Mansfield illustrates a rich, colorful fairy-tale-like picture as the setting of Leila’s world. We can obviously sense how Leila’s perception of the ball is that of a dreamlike event. The author shows her readers at the beginning of the story how Leila felt more like Cinderella incarnated in her body; for, her thrill is felt when she is in the cab passing by “waltzing” lampposts. Apparently, Leila’s heart is beating fast here, and we can almost hear its pulse, especially when “she tried not to smile too much; she tried not to care”(p.40).
The author’s creation of a dream world is revealed in the way Leila views everything with wide eyes and astonishment. Simple common details, such as “Meg’s tuberoses, Jose’s long loop of amber, Laura’s little dark head…”(p.40) are even seen by her as most charming and extraordinary. Unmistakably, Mansfield is constructing “fairy land” as the setting of the story through the eyes of Leila.
In order to sketch the ball through Leila’s eyes, Katherine Mansfield writes the story from a feminine point of view. The writer of the story seems to understand Leila’s awe, and even seems to have lived similar experiences. If a man were to write in Mansfield’s style, it would most likely be difficult for him to achieve the same results as the female writer. He needs to think, live, and see things as a woman. There is this delicacy and innocence that scents the story, which is a very feminine incense. When this “feminine aroma” is inhaled, we can directly feel that the story is written by a female, and from a female’s point of view. The very structure of the setting (the fairy-tale-like touch) is a part of a young girl’s perspective on life.
Part of the feminine color in this story is the way it focuses on female fashion, age, customs and traditions---in short, all are part of feminine subjective experience. The focus on fashion is revealed when Leila enters the ladies’ room. There, the ladies were fixing their looks by seeing to their hair, tucking handkerchiefs into their clothes, and smoothing their gloves. Also, fashion terminologies suggesting the female world are used, such as “invisible hairpins” and “powder” (p.41). Traditions and focus on age concerning young ladies is revealed when it is hinted that a girl would be exposed to society at the age of eighteen (usually in order to fetch herself...