Friday, November 16, 2012

Tall Tales: The Pink of Perfection (Part Two)

Welcome back, friends and fellow bibliophile, to part two of the Elsie Dinsmore controversies.

Conflict #2: Louisa May Alcott is Better Than Martha Finley
It seems to me a very sad thing that people who dislike Elsie Dinsmore say that no parent should be so cruel as to let their child read them. Instead, they say, girls should be given Louisa May Alcott.

Oh dear.

I enjoy Little Women and Rose in Bloom very much indeed. But Louisa May Alcott was both a feminist and a panentheist, two attitudes which no girl should take part in. Martha Finley is much safer in worldview.

Conflict #3 How Elsie Handles Sundays
Of all the conflicts that ever conflicted, this is the conflictingist of them all. :) Is it wrong to listen to music on Sundays that never mentions God? I would hope not, because all those Celtic pieces are really very relaxing.
The point Finley tries to illustrate is that Sunday should be a day of rest--a day set apart for the worship of God. I try to do this, by taking a break from my work during the week: writing, blogging, preparing Bible study lessons, etc. In fact, most Sundays after a time spent in worship, I pretty much try to knock out a book the rest of the day. (And I don't limit myself to Pilgrim's Progress and the Bible. Last Sunday was a conglomeration, but the one before that was A Tale of Two Cities.) That, to me, is rest.
Certainly a portion of Sunday should be spent fellow-shipping with the church, reading God's Word, singing songs of praise, and hearing good teaching. But the rest of the time may safely be spent in a day of rest, which varies by your occupation and pursuits. Certain pleasures may indeed be more suited for weekdays, but there are many that I find far from questionable to participate in on Sundays that do not specifically mention God, and here's why:  The spiritual and the secular (note that I do not mean "worldly") cannot be completely divorced. What we believe in our spiritual lives will affect everything we do in our physical lives. And if our Christian beliefs do not affect every secular thing we do, then we don't have a strong Christianity.
Therefore, Elsie could have read more than Pilgrim's Progress on Sundays. And when her father asked her to play a song on the piano, she could have played it and still honored God.

But what about the blowup in book two? Everybody debates about whether Elsie's decision not to read the book her father asks her to was the right one. After all, it led to pretty heartrending consequences. Couldn't she have just read it?

That is such a big elephant that we're going to put in in a conflict of its own.

Conflict #4 Elsie's Disobedience

 It has been said that a book is a grey area for a child to disobey their parents in. Elsie's eight years old, her father is in his mid-twenties. Surely he's much older and wiser and better able to judge such matters. However, Elsie's father is also not a Christian, which throws another monkey wrench into the affair. We've met an impasse.

Unless Martha Finley really meant something else.

In this incident, she was neither talking about books nor the Sabbath. She was trying to illustrate a child's proper response when a parent asks them to do something against their conscience. However faulty  the particular example may be, people often get hung up on the details and miss the premise. Since parents are human and subject to human frailties, some children are going to have to face a time where they say respectfully say no, whether in actions or attitudes. But when we do this, we must still honor and obey in everything else. Elsie didn't rebel or cast off her father. She still counted him as her authority in everything that did not contradict the Word of God.

The rest matters not for the purposes of the story.

In answer to the defense that a book is a grey area-- Books are the written expressions of the author's beliefs. They are full of ideologies, that, if not conformed to the Christian worldview can be very dangerous indeed. And a child of eight is quite to young to be exposed to heavy error in reading material. They haven't developed the ability to counter-attack and defend their beliefs, and therefore adults in charge should be careful what they are exposed to. The power of the printed page is mightier than the sword; while the sword can only kill the body, the printed page can corrupt the mind and soul.

And if we feel that Elsie did wrong in this situation, then we must also hold to the view that Fanny Price had no business refusing to act in the play in Mansfield Park. After all, her cousins and aunt were older there as well. Yet no one looks down on Fanny Price for acting against the commands of her aunt and benefactors. The situation in Elsie Dinsmore is the very much the same.

Today's Review: The Elsie Audiobooks

 Vision Forum produced three audiobooks narrated by Bill Potter, their well-known historian-in- residence. While they must have axed the project, he has a good voice for the books. They're not professional--Potter keeps changing his mind on a couple of name pronunciations--nor did they spend a great deal of time on editing, giving a laughable effect in a couple of areas, but I still enjoy them for all that.

Laurie Mantufel picked up the project and recorded books one through seven. Her narration is excellent as well, and better in quality, though of the two I thought Potter's voice the best. To purchase either, go to the Vision Forum website.

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Another excellent post. Though I would say that what Elsie conscientiously objects to is as important as the way she objects to it. She's still only half right.

    Although I would think that as far as a comparison to Fanny Price goes, it would be better to compare Elsie's behaviour to Fanny's in the latter refusing to marry Henry (where her uncle/guardian really did want her to do so) rather than Fanny's refusing to act in the play (where she refused in large part because she knew her uncle, the head of the family, would expect her and everyone else to). Indeed the whole thing about the play is not that Fanny or Austen believe it would be positively wrong, but because Fanny knows that her uncle would not like it. It's not about plays being bad; it's about disobedience to covenant headship being bad.

    In the same way my main objection to Elsie's not reading the book her father wanted her to read was that she was disobeying someone she would generally have a duty to obey, not that she was discounting a wiser elder.

    Anyway. Just some mental doodling.

    Thank goodness, someone else who realises how bad LM Alcott is!

    1. I would agree; good point.

      Yes, well, I have a few problems with Alcott-though I read and enjoy her stories, her theology has some errors. :)

  2. Dear Lady B,
    Good post! I agree Martha Finley has much better theology than L.M.Alcott. I like Alcott's writing style but I did notice a few things. ;)
    Daddy and I are reading Elsie right now!!!!!!! :D :D :D :D

    Love, Sister

    1. I'm enjoying listening to you. :D It brings back a lot of memories. ;)

      Love and cuddles,

  3. Come see my giveaway for feminine by Design by Scott brown! New giveaway each Saturday!

    1. Thanks so much for letting me know! I entered my name. :)


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