This book is about a girl. And what I loved about this book is that the girl wasn't really nice. But then, life throws a curve ball and she ends up asThis book is about a girl. And what I loved about this book is that the girl wasn't really nice. But then, life throws a curve ball and she ends up as a scullery maid. Worry not, folks! Everybody knows that our girl comes back on top due to equally mysterious circumstances (as with how she ended up at the bottom in the first place).
The book follows the growing-up of Sara Crewe. She started out as a well-off officer in India. Motherless and with her father going to (the Boer) war, Sara is left at Miss Minchin('s), Select Seminary for Young Girls, which is a boarding school located somewhere in London. While Miss Minchin (head mistress) and Lavinia (classmate) doesn't like Sara, everybody else seems to love her, even Becky the scullery maid. But life gets nasty when Sara's father dies suddenly and the business partner took the money. Because Miss Minchin is a practical lady, she lets Sara stay in the school as a maid. So, Sara stays as a maid for a few years...
Here is where I enumerate my observations and some (unsolicited) opinions:
1) SARA IS WEALTHY BUT ISN'T LIKE OTHER GIRLS WITH THE SAME UPBRINGING. Naturally, in that world, all rich people are alike. They are snobs, lazy, and all bad things associated with being rich. This is one of Burnett's pet-peeve stereotype (as seen in her other novels). So, she made Sara a wealthy girl who is polite, intelligent, and somewhat compassionate. Well done, Burnett. I complete bought that.
2) SARA IS A FOREIGNER. Sara came from the mysterious land called India, which is just so foreign and mysterious. Some people like Sara's foreign habits. In truth, apart from Sara's fluency in Hindustani, Sara doesn't have much foreign habits. It would have been interesting to see how the school reacted to that. Would they be as shocked as they are with Sara's stories? And, Sara's doll-person, Emily?
3) MISS MINCHIN DISLIKES SARA. Maybe because it is in Sara's perspective, but unlike in movie adaptations, Miss Minchin doesn't really hate Sara at all that much. There are just some people who you really can't get along with. Fact of life. In fact, Miss Minchin's decisions were rather merciful and shows her business prowess, maybe a bit of compassion. Miss Minchin's ill feelings came about from her strong belief of stereotype (#1). She is unprepared for Sara's strangeness. Being a respectable English lady, she doesn't like change. She even lets Sara stay, where the alternative would have been 1) send her to the streets (which is horrible as Sara has no street skills), or 2) the orphanage (which is even more horrible!). Of course, in the book, it's for Sara to pay for board, lodging, and extravagances given by Miss Minchin on credit, which is really what she's mad about. Yes, she's somewhat abused, but that's how you treat lower servants because they're no-good. How I wish Sara would have used her smarts to explore the servant's hierarchy, etc.
4) LAWYERS. They are evil. And they weren't much good with advising Capt. Crewe to set aside emergency funds. Was Capt. Crewe that stupid? And there was no next of kin?
5) BECKY. What happens to Becky at the end is a true example of what Burnett thinks. Becky started out as a scullery maid (view spoiler)[ and then becomes a lady's maid. Her promotion is her happy ending. Clearly, the values are very different. And, very sad. (hide spoiler)]
What this book teaches is PRIDE. Sara knows that she is upper-class and would remain upper-class. She is a "PRINCESS" so, naturally, she is generous. A true noble-born lady would be generous to those below her. In fact, this kind of thinking has been drilled into her psyche by her own father. He repeatedly says that Sara will be very wealthy one day. And, as that Spiderman movie insisted, with great power comes great responsibility.
PRIDE is all about knowing what you are and never bending no matter the circumstance. Sara has never known a world where she is not a princess. Fortunately, recent social developments (e.g. equality), I know a world where I *am* a princess, but also a pirate, a doctor, a lawyer, a beauty queen, a writer, a book reviewer.... ...more