‘Christmas Every Day’ by William Dean Howells

Howells, William Dean 1893

Christmas Every Day by William Dean Howells, 1893

The magic trick:

Providing the target audience for the morality tale with the granddaughter character in the story

It’s one thing to write an instructive little morality tale of a short story. It’s another step further to show in the very same story the exact target audience for which the story should apply. Howells does just that using a framing device. Essentially, the “Christmas Every Day” fable exists as a story that we see an old man tell his granddaughter. She, you could say, is a little bit entitled. She has very specific storytelling demands of her grandfather. She wants what she wants and she wants it now. This isn’t to say she is an awful person. Howells paints her lovingly. She has the selfishness of happy and comfortable youth. But he is also clear that it is just her ilk who need to pay attention to the grandfather’s story, a lesson of community and austerity. And that’s quite a trick on Howells’s part.

The selection:

“Well!” Her papa roused himself. “Then I’ll tell you about the little girl that wanted it Christmas every day in the year. How would you like that?”

“First-rate!” said the little girl; and she nestled into comfortable shape in his lap, ready for listening.

“Very well, then, this little pig–Oh, what are you pounding me for?”

“Because you said little pig instead of little girl.”

“I should like to know what’s the difference between a little pig and a little girl that wanted it Christmas every day!”

“Papa!” said the little girl warningly. At this her papa began to tell the story.

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