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The Little Girl

09 The Little Girl

The story ‘The Little Girl’ by Katherine Mansfield is about a father daughter relationship. The little girl in the story Kezia is so scared of her father that she hardly meets eyes with him. Eventually she realizes that her father is not as hard hearted as she thinks he is. The story is narrated from the point of view of Kezia alone. Her views about her father, her mother, her grandmother, their cook Alice, and their neighbours – Macdonalds, let the reader know what a little girl thinks and how she feels regarding the people around her.

From the very beginning of the story we realise that the author may be exploring the theme of control. Kezia, her mother and the servants in the house are answerable to her father. How unfavourable this level of control is to Kezia is noticeable through how she engages with her father. Rather than sharing a close bond with her father she lives her life in fear of him.

Towards the end of the story the theme changes to compassion. When Kezia finds it difficult to sleep, her father carries her to his bed with him. For the first time in the story he allows Kezia’s feelings to take priority. How important this connection is to Kezia is noticeable by the fact that she begins to forgive her father for his previous actions and takes into consideration that the anger he had shown towards her was a result of him having had to work so hard.

Meanings of words and phrases

  • stutter: stammer usually out of fear
  • wretched: express anger or annoyance
  • brink: on the verge of
  • gravely: seriously
  • laboriously: in a way that takes considerable time and effort
  • hue and cry: a noisy expression of anger
  • pacing: to walk at a steady speed
  • to and fro: to move constantly backwards and forwards
  • clung: to hold on tightly
  • nightmare : a frightening or unpleasant dream
  • whispery : mysterious sounds
  • butcher : a person whose trade is cutting up and selling meat in a shop
  • shivering : shake slightly and uncontrollably
  • tucked : to make someone comfortable in bed
  • snuggled : settle or move into a warm, comfortable position
  • crept : to approach slowly

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