Her First Ball by Katherine Mansfield Tone

Instructor: Kerry Gray

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

In this lesson, we will discuss the tone of the short story ''Her First Ball'' by Katherine Mansfield. This is the story of a young girl who attends her first formal dance with her cousins in the city.

Introduction to Tone

Think about something that you looked forward to throughout your childhood. Once it happened, was it everything you hoped it would be? In the short story ''Her First Ball,'' Katherine Mansfield describes all of the emotions the protagonist, Leila, feels as she prepares to go to her first dance. Through the course of the story, the tone changes. Tone describes the attitude the writer has towards the subject matter. Let's examine the tone in different parts of this story.

Excited and Hopeful

In the cab on the way to the dance, the story takes on an excited tone as Leila considers how ''every single thing was so new and exciting.'' The others who are with her have been to dances before and are taking it all in stride, but this is something new to Leila that she can't wait to experience for the very first time. Everything about the evening, including the decorations, the clothing, and the crowd, is elegant and full of possibilities.


Although Leila is having a great time, she becomes somewhat disappointed when she realizes that ''her partners were not more interested.'' When it becomes time for her to dance with the fat, old man, things turn downright cynical. The man tells Leila that he has been attending these dances for 30 years and that someday she will ''be sitting up there on the stage'' with the other chaperones, feeling jealous that her time has passed and that the young men want to kiss her daughter, not her. Leila becomes upset and wants to go home. She wishes she could slow down time by ''sitting on the veranda listening to those baby owls.''


After taking a pause to catch her breath, a young man takes his turn to dance with Leila. After a few minutes, Leila gets caught up in the moment, and the town returns to a carefree, living in the moment attitude. By the next time Leila sees the older man, she has already forgotten him and is back to having a good time.

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