Her First Ball by Katherine Mansfield Comprehension Questions

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

''Her First Ball'' is a short story by Katherine Mansfield about a country girl's first dance. This lesson provides comprehension question to help your students better understand the story.

Story Summary

Think about your first dance. Was it everything you hoped it would be? In Katherine Mansfield's Her First Ball,, the protagonist, Leila, anticipates a magical night. When she arrives, she quickly fills her dance card. Throughout the evening, there are times when she enjoys the dances and other times when she would rather be at home. With each new dance partner, there is an awkwardness that must be overcome, except when she dances with an older gentleman. Although he seems more socially capable that the younger men, his cynical views threaten Leila's carefree fun. The man tells Leila that her time as a young lady in the spotlight will soon pass, and she will be stuck on the sidelines with the others who, like him, have passed their prime. For a moment, it appears that the dance has been ruined, but then a young man comes to dance with her and Leila's good mood returns.

Characters and Setting

The following questions may be asked to help students better understand the characters and setting in this story:

  • Why is Leila's experience in the cab on the way to the ball different from her cousins' experience?
  • Describe some of the mixed feelings Leila has about attending the ball.
  • What 3 words would you use to describe Leila? List text evidence to support your conclusion.
  • How does Leila change over the course of the story?
  • What motivates the older man to say the things he says to Leila?
  • How does the man impact the other characters in the story?
  • What is Meg's primary role in the story?
  • How does Laura support Leila at the ball?
  • What do you think will be the most memorable part of the ball for Leila? Why?
  • What are some details in the story that enable the reader to infer the early 1900s' time setting?
  • How does the ballroom setting contribute to the story?

Themes and Symbolism

The following questions will lead to a greater understanding of the themes and symbols in the story:

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