Black Beauty grows old (and Ginger dies!); Mattie never is nice to Wanda Petronski, and joins the other girls in egging her on about her “hundred dresses”; Lyra causes her best friend’s death; Anne Frank goes off to a concentration camp …. but all these books still left me with a feeling of hope -- about people and possibilities. Great books do this not with platitudes or PC messages or Walt Disney happy endings, but because of the way their (very real and believable) heroes and heroines react:
“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart,”
“Yes, she must have [really liked us],” said Mattie, and she blinked away the tears that came every time she thought of Wanda standing alone in the sunny spot in that sunny spot in the schoolyard, looking stolidly over at the group of laughing girls, after she had said, ‘Sure, a hundred of them – all lined up…”
“The first ghost to leave the world of the dead was Roger. He took a step forward, and turned to look back at Lyra, and laughed in surprise as he found himself turning into the night, the starlight, the air, and then he was gone, leaving behind such a vivid little burst of happiness that Will was reminded of the bubbles in a glass of champagne.”
Maybe it has nothing to do with the way the characters react, maybe it’s just something the best writers show us or induce in us about the gallant human spirit. Anyway, I feel bigger-hearted and more hopeful after reading them.
“Hope is the thing with feathers –
that perches in the soul.” – Emily Dickinson
And how about that word “perches”? Pretty perfect. That some people write that well – and that some girls now still read and love her poetry – gives me hope, too.