Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Literary Studies: Christmas in Poganuc by Harriet Beecher Stowe

by M. J. Joachim



Harriet Beecher Stowe, PD-US
Dolly is a very young child, more curious than ever about the phenomenon people call Christmas. Back in those days, children went to bed without a second thought, while the adults carried on, knowing the children were fast asleep as they were supposed to be, and completely certain no harm would come to them in such a peaceful state. Dolly, however, had trouble falling asleep with the bells and Christmas music from the nearby church being played so beautifully. She could see the glow in the air from all the Christmas lights, and in her curious, non-compliant sort of way, she made her way downstairs to catch a glimpse of the festivities from the porch. Except she couldn’t see well enough from there, and quite accidentally made her way to the church, without anyone being the wiser.

Thus is the introductory synopsis of Christmas in Poganuc by Harriet Beecher Stowe, a tale destined to take us on an historic Christmas adventure of an inquisitive little girl named Dolly, who was the light and joy in her home, to be sure, but who also managed to get into a bit of mischief, due to her extraordinary and unexpected behavior. Dolly wasn’t a bad child by any stretch of the imagination. Thankfully her parents knew this and couldn’t love her more, despite a few misjudgments she may have had regarding certain decisions she made, with every good intention of heart.

In reading this story, it is difficult not to consider the historical element of it, because throughout its pages, black people were servants and helpers of the more educated and affluent white people. Language and conversations were aptly characteristic of a time when life was so much different, yet not necessarily resented or approached as it is in our current society. There was no debate or concern for politically correct, other than children knowing their place and behaving without a second thought. In fact, much of this story focuses on the expected behavior of children, and the duality of their current behavior at the time the story was written, but even more so today. It’s hard to remember a time when children didn’t take for granted they had the right to question anyone or anything, though I do remember that being a big faux pas with my own parents.

Customary as it was to have black people working for white people, this story is actually a story about all people, as opposed to dividing people by race or creed. Religion is strongly considered, even presented with people who celebrated Christmas and those who didn’t. Faith is deemed primary content as the story unfolds, revealing people who did and did not keep Christmas, people of science, as opposed to people of faith and religion. People were merely elements in the story to make it come alive, while serious topics regarding raising children and accepting people for who they are, regardless of how various debris denoting anything they might be judged about, came into play.

This is a short Christmas story with the potential for a huge impact on anyone who reads it. Historical content aside, this story is intellectually sound, making perfect sense out of reality, without attempting to alter it presumptuously, so as not to offend anyone by its content. That being said, it’s content is not offensive at all if taken with the right attitude, which is why readers and writers will benefit greatly from studying this piece. It is honest, steadfast and pure, the substance of which makes all writing great, and leaves an audience saturated and well pleased.

Honesty truly is the best policy, provided tact is used and silence is still considered golden.

Thank you for spending a few moments of your very busy day with me. I appreciate it more than you know.

M. J.

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