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Coming of age is a prominent theme in Her First Ball by Katherine Mansfield.

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Introduction

Coming of age is a prominent theme in ?Her First Ball? by Katherine Mansfield. It is expressed in the plot, wherein an adolescent girl attends her first ball and is fascinated and thrilled by it all. Her hopes are then let down by an older gentleman who cruelly reminds her that she will soon be an old lady with no happiness and excitement left in her life. Mansfield depicts the theme of growing up in title, language, literary devices and characterization. The title, ?Her First Ball?, clearly states the subject of the story while maintaining the implications of growth and ageing. The use of the pronoun, ?her?, instead of the name, Leila, shows how ubiquitous this process- how every woman has had a first ball that is a milestone in their journey to adulthood. This reiterates the notion that Leila, like everyone else will grow up and will no longer be the ecstatic young girl in awe of everything, whether it be for better or worse. The word ?first? implies youth and the change that comes with ageing. It suggests many more balls and experiences to come and marks this incident as a milestone in her life. Another technique Mansfield uses to express the theme of growing up in the story is the language. The language in ?Her First Ball? is extremely descriptive and ornate. ...read more.

Middle

The music changes to something better and she loses herself in the dance, forgetting the words of the fat man; forgetting him altogether. The frequent changes in tone conceivably represent the changes in life that come with ageing and development. The music plays an important part in the story, mirroring the feelings of Leila. ?with rabbit ears thumping the cold piano? is a description of Leila?s boarding school dance lessons that were uncomfortable and a drag to her. This contrasts with ?a soft, melting, ravishing tune?. The words chosen describe the music as an art or even as a food- ?soft?, ?melting?. This shows the overwhelming joy Leila feels in the fantastic ball. However, after the fat old man reminds Leila of her fate, ?the music seemed to change; it sounded sad, sad?. The music that once ?rose upon a wave? now ?rose upon a sigh?. This illustrates the quick changes in mood symptomatic of the youth, the gullibility and naivety as well. Even more so, Leila doesn?t even recognize him with the advent of another dance and has forgotten her dreadful encounter, which adds to the notion of the growing up and the mercurial changes in adolescence. Perhaps the most potent techniques to show the theme of ageing are the literary devices used. Mansfield uses an array of similes, metaphors and imagery to capture the scene and Leila?s emotions. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, it is this quality of hers that leads her to forget her bad memory and move on to the pleasures of life, even if they are short lived. The Old man on the other hand, could be a symbol of wisdom. When he first meets her he says ? Do I remember this bright little face? although he?s obviously never seen her before. This creates an atmosphere of eerie knowledge around him. His shabby appearance and the fact that he dances with the youth despite his age sets him apart from the rest of the gentlemen and marks him as different. His age, his correct conjecture that it?s Leila?s first ball and his accurate prediction of her future signifies that he perhaps plays the role of a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. The fact that Leila forgets him suggests her immaturity and her inability to see past the present. Thus, Mansfield perhaps tries to achieve the notion of the pettiness and fatuity as well as happiness and celebration of the youth in the story and its contents. She uses the plot to describe an incident where Leila is at her most happy and later, probably her least. The ending of the story shows Leila?s resilience, or rather, her ignorance. While centered on the theme of coming of age, I feel that Mansfield used the many effective literary techniques and the conclusion of the story to show that Leila has, essentially, not matured. ...read more.

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