The little girl

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Summary of the text ‘The little girl’ written by Katherine Mansfield

The story revolves around a young girl named Kezia and her complex relationship with her father. Kezia is initially afraid of her father, a stern man who is always busy and has a loud voice. She feels relief when he leaves for work and a sense of dread when he returns home in the evening. When he comes home, he usually asks for his tea and newspaper. Sometimes Kezia is asked to take off her father’s boots, an interaction that always makes her nervous.

Kezia’s mother encourages her to be a good girl so she can assist her father, but she finds his size and presence intimidating. She stutters only around him because she tries too hard to speak properly. Her father scolds her for it, saying she might need to see a doctor if she continues stuttering.

One day, Kezia decides to make a pin-cushion for her father’s birthday. She stitches it herself but needs something to fill it with. She finds some of her father’s papers and tears them up to use as stuffing. It turns out that those papers were important for her father’s work, leading to a household crisis. When her actions are discovered, her mother is furious, and her father is in disbelief. As a result, he punishes her with a ruler, hitting her on the palms.

Kezia doesn’t understand the gravity of her actions and is traumatized by the punishment. She asks her grandmother why God made fathers, revealing her deep confusion and fear. Her grandmother tries to console her, telling her she will forget about it, but Kezia doesn’t. The next time she sees her father, she hides her hands behind her back, scared.

Kezia observes the Macdonald family next door, noting that their father is different. He plays tag with his children, runs around with them, and seems much happier than her own father. This makes her think that not all fathers are the same.

Eventually, Kezia’s mother and grandmother have to go to the hospital, leaving her home with Alice, the cook. Kezia is scared of sleeping alone because she often has nightmares. That night, she has another nightmare about a butcher with a knife and wakes up to find her father beside her with a candle. He takes her to sleep in his room, asking her to warm her feet against his legs.

Sleeping beside her father, Kezia’s perspective starts to change. She realizes that he is also a person who gets tired and has no one to take care of him. She feels guilty about tearing up his important papers. As they sleep, she hears his heartbeat and comments on how big his heart is. This moment indicates a change in how she views her father, seeing him now as a human being with feelings and vulnerabilities, rather than just a figure of authority and fear.

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