The Discovery Of Christmas by Carson McCullers, 1953
The magic trick:
Showing how a child’s distraction from important life concerns at Christmastime marks her both spoiled and endearing
We’ve got an old-fashioned Georgia Christmas today. Our young narrator is finding out that Santa Claus and Jesus aren’t necessarily kin, as she says. It’s a chilling revelation for her, one that in fact causes her much anger and distress.
Meanwhile, though, we have a scarlet fever quarantine. We have talk of a dead baby at Christmastime. There is a morbid cloud that hangs over this story. But our narrator is immune to all of it. She’s focused on toys and her baby sister and her anger. Which on one hand paints her as a spoiled brat. But on the other, it’s actually pretty sweet. Kids should be immune to the real stresses around them. Especially at Christmas. And that’s quite a trick on McCullers’s part.
The Christmas of my fifth year, when we still lived in the old downtown Georgia home, I had just recovered from scarlet fever, and that Christmas Day I overcame a rivalry that like the fever had mottled and blanched my sickened heart. This rivalry that changed to love overshadowed my discovery that Santa Claus and Jesus were not the kin I had supposed.
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