Luella Miller by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, 1902
The magic trick:
Putting the bulk of the story through the frame of Lydia Anderson’s retelling
I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t quite work out why Freeman frames this story through the memories of Luella Miler’s neighbor, Lydia Anderson. The story is told by a third-person narrator but relies for the bulk of the plot on stories Lydia Anderson told the town about Luella. I suppose this allows a more intimate appraisal of the character and the story from the town’s perspective?
Maybe, too, it allows the reader to question some of the story’s validity. Notably, Freeman mentions on more than one occasion that, long ago, Erastus Miller had married Luella instead of Lydia. Perhaps that ache is what drivies the dark biography of Luella’s life that Lydia tells. Maybe Lydia, and not Luella, is the evil, tragic figure of the story.
As I said, I’m not sure. I can’t quite figure it out. But I know I like the framing device. I like the layer it brings to the story. And that’s quite a trick on Freeman’s part.
“I found her all dressed up in blue muslin with white polka dots on it, and her hair curled jest as pretty, and there wa’n’t a young girl in the place could compare with her. There was somethin’ about Luella Miller seemed to draw the heart right out of you, but she didn’t draw it out of me.