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What Is The Theme Of Her First Ball By Katherine Mansfield

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The short story Her first ball is written by Katherine Mansfield, a prominent modernist writer from New Zealand. The short story was first published in the Weekly Westminster Gazette, then later included in her third collection of short stories, The Garden Party and Other Stories. Her first ball centers on young Leila who has moved from the countryside to the city and is attending her first ball along with her cousins.
Considering Mansfield wrote the short story in the early 1920s, and also bearing in mind that dances such as the one included in Her first ball were common among the bourgeois youth at this time, it is fair to assume Mansfield meant for the short story to be set in the then contemporary time.
The plot of the short story unfolds
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Leila moves from up-country to the city, meets new people and takes on a new role as a ball participant. She has likely turned 18 recently and is transitioning into adulthood.
The old man, a sore reminder of Leila's future, attends dances without shame. When Leila remarks that it is inspiring for him to still be going on, he tells her that she has no chance of lasting as long. ("[...] 'long before that you'll be sitting up there on the stage, looking on, in your nice black velvet. And these pretty arms will have turned into little short fat ones, and you'll beat time with such a different kind of fan - a black bony one.'". This introduces a fourth theme: gender roles. Though it is possible for him, as a man, to continue dancing for as long as he would like to, she cannot make that choice.
Her first ball is a short story that deals with coming of age, new beginnings, facades in the upper class, and gender roles in the 1920s. Katherine Mansfield uses many symbols to get her message through: it is not necessarily wrong to see the world through the eyes of a child every once in a while, and you should enjoy the moment even though there will inevitably be an end to it.

Sources:
http://www.gradesaver.com/the-garden-party/study-guide/summary-her-first-ball
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