Christmas; Or, The Good Fairy by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1850
The magic trick:
Drawing the families in need with great specificity
Be nice to your neighbors. What a concept! Be nice to your neighbors, especially when you already have enough, especially during the holiday season. What a concept!
It’s all very heart-warming and nice. And look, if you’re reading this story at Christmas you’re probably not analyzing its ability to steer clear of saccharine “do unto others..” clichés. You’re probably just looking for a warm feeling in your belly amidst the bleak winter war zone that is the world today.
But… if you were to seek such analysis, let me help. Stowe highlights a few needy families near our protagonists’s home. She does a great job of being very specific about their situations and their troubles. We can picture their homes and their crises. It raises our desire to help, increases our admiration for Ella and the family and significantly lowers the maudlin factor of the story. And that’s quite a trick on Stowe’s part.
“Well, then,” continued her aunt, “in the next street to ours there is a miserable building, that looks as if it were just going to topple over; and away up in the third story, in a little room just under the eaves, live two poor, lonely old women. They are both nearly on to ninety. I was in there day before yesterday. One of them is constantly confined to her bed with rheumatism; the other, weak and feeble, with failing sight and trembling hands, totters about, her only helper; and they are entirely dependent on charity.”
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