A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess Frances Hodgson Burnett

Rating: 3.5 Stars ★★★★☆

Once on a dark winter’s day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.

Plot

Without her beloved father and miles from home, it is very hard for Sara Crewe to like her new life at boarding school. Luckily Sara is always dreaming up wonderful things and her power of telling stories wins her lots of friends. When a letter arrives that brings disastrous news, the wicked headmistress Miss Minchin forces Sara to become a servant. Her lovely clothes and toys are taken away from her and she must work from dawn until midnight. How will Sara cope with her newfound poverty? Can her imagination help her overcome this horrible situation?

Review

I loved this book when I was a child, prone to losing myself in daydreams, just like Sara. So whenever I read this book, it’s always with nostalgia. But I do think that it holds up remarkably well on rereading. It’s like coming back to an old friend.

I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses.

Reading it as an adult, however, I also noticed some of its weaknesses, the most blatant of which was the classism. Sara used to be rich, but once she loses everything, she an the servant girl Becky are basically on the same level. Or so you’d think. Because throughout the book it’s always made clear that Becky is definitely not equal to Sara. Despite them both toiling in Miss Minchin’s school, Becky always defers to Sara.

Becky had scarcely known what laughter was through all her poor, little hard-driven life. Sara made her laugh, and laughed with her; and, though neither of them quite knew it, the laughter was as “fillin” as the meat pies.

Sara gets the presents from an unknown benefactor and Becky gets… nothing (though Sara does share the spoils with her).

And once Sara gets back money and is unbelievably rich, there’s no question of using the money to get Becky an education or anything like that. No, she’ll remain a servant, only for the kind-hearted Sara instead of the cruel Miss Minchin.

Still, it is a sweet story that places a lot of emphasis on resilience, kindness and the power of fantasy. In the context of her education and time, Sara does really care for Becky and they are friends of sorts.

Conclusion

A sweet story about the power of imagination and kindness.

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