Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Against Elsie

Recently my dear friend Ellie has reviewed the Elsie Dinsmore books in her blog. I couldn't disagree with her more on almost every point she mentions. So, rather than leave an insanely long comment telling her how wrong she is, I thought I would share my opinion with all of you. I know Ellie won't mind. In fact, both Ellie and her mother informed me this Sunday that they looked forward to reading my rebuttal. So here, my friends, is my case against the beloved and despised Elsie Dinsmore.

I'd like to begin by stating that I have actually not only read the first Elsie Dinsmore book, but five out of the twelve. So while I haven't totally immersed myself in the Elsie world, I am well acquainted with it. In addition, I prepared for this post by skimming over the first book again, which is the book I will primarily focus on in this post.

As I read, I found myself reading sections aloud to my family in disbelief. I wish I had the time to write a complete commentary on every chapter of the book. I, however, do not. So I'm going to simply outline my main points of contention with the book and respond to some things that Ellie said in her post. I might mention that I do not claim to be unbiased, I am quite ready to admit that I think that the whole series is ridiculous.

#1. Elsie's judgment is portrayed as infallible. At eight years old she is wiser than all of the adults in the story. This seriously irks me. Her convictions are shown to be superior to those of her elders in nearly every chapter of the book! How is that biblical?

The Bible teaches that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. I see foolishness in Elsie all through the books. But rather than point that out, the author portrays Elsie's foolishness to be a brand of child-like faith, while her father's wisdom is portrayed as hard-hearted worldliness.

#2. Elsie does not honor the proper order of authority. More than once her father asks Elsie to do something that she considers to be against what the Bible teaches, such as to play what Elsie considers to be a secular song on the piano or read a secular book on Sunday. Elsie totally ignores the biblical concepts of authority and chooses, instead, to have a test of will with her father, which she eventually wins. What's more, this is considered to be good thing in the story.

I cannot agree with this. This is, to me, a very dangerous concept to endorse. Teaching children that they must question the authority of their parents at every turn is a terrible notion. I encourage young people to evaluate their personal standards against the Word of God, but while they are under the authority of their parents it is right and proper for them to defer to the judgment of the parents that God has placed them with.

In response to Ellie:

My issue is not that Elsie is too perfect. It is that she is imperfect, but portrayed as perfect.

I do not view Elsie's disobedience as being nullified because she supposedly repents of it years and years later. It has spoiled all the earlier books already.

Yes, Elsie is a cry baby. This annoys the heck out of me, but I think it is more than just personal preference. She has no handle on her emotions and is incapable of being happy with her life unless everything is just so. I can't see how this could be something anyone would like...

I know this isn't everything... But if you read the books, I have confidence that you, oh discerning reader, (minus Ellie and Autumn :P) will see the faults for yourself.


  1. Dear Lizzie,

    As you have already guessed I am sure, this has not changed my view on Elsie in the lest. And if you like, I would be more then happy to email you my reasons why. For several reasons I will not be posting about this on my person blog anymore (more on that to come later).

    On thing that donned on me while reading this, is that I can see how you might have interpreted things differently then I did, as we both come from completely different family back rounds. That wasn’t meant as a knock on you dearie!:)

  2. I have read the first 6 books in the series and understand where you are coming from.
    Just as Laura Ingalls hated Mary for being a showoff, I always disliked how Elsie was always doing whatever she felt was right. I was also disappointed at how she disregarded her father. She always seemed perfect even though she wasn't, and I agree that she was quite the crybaby.
    I have in past times, recommended Elsie Dinsmore books to my friends, but at this point I would not really want my little sister reading them.

    Thank you for explaining your opinions and helping me understand the content of the books.


  3. I would seem to me you could cut Elsie a little bit of a break. I mean she is only 8 years old and unable to control her emotions. Its not like she had the best examples in her life. AND! when her father did return and their relationship was restored to a proper father daughter relationship she matured quite successfully in controlling her emotions.

  4. I Have to agree with candlebynight,
    you should cut Elsie some slack about being a cry baby, she was only 8!When I that age I was almost as bad as she was!
    And, that book helped me see how bad it was to be a cry baby!

    O, and one more, you said you were going to "primarily focus" on the first book but you talked more about the second book then the first book;)

    I guess we will never agree on this subject and like many others we will have to agree to disagree no matter how much I wish you had enjoyed the Elsie books as much as I did when I was reading them.

    (I hope I don't sound too mean!:)

  5. In reply to candlebynight and Autumn:

    You are both missing the point, though. It's not that she isn't perfect. It's that the author portrays her as perfect. And when her father tries to correct these faults in her he is painted as an overbearing, insensitive, bad guy.

  6. I think Elisabeth hit the nail on the head there. Of course Elsie isn't perfect, but why does the authoress then try to put a positive spin on unbiblical behavior? I have only read the first book, as a read-aloud to the children when they were much younger. I enjoyed it and admired Elsie for her convictions. That was before I understood her folly, which the authoress could have pointed out, but didn't. I think she even uses the word "perfect" in describing Elsie. Sad. A wasted teaching moment. And yes, I do believe the authoress is preaching character in the books and is not just telling a story, so when she is so obviously moralizing, but fails to point out character flaws, it's a problem in my mind.

    On the opposite extreme, there can be no doubt that she (the authoress) intends to portray Elsie's father as a mean, pagan ogre who has no right to make demands on his pious daughter. She would fit right in with today's modern TV writers who never write about a father/husband unless he's a buffoon or an abuser.

  7. Your book review was quite interesting. I'm with you on Elsie. There are so many reasons those books are not favorites with me.

    One of the things that bothers me is how she never, ever gets away from her father's authority. Not even after she's married and has seven kids and numerous grandchildren. The first story promoting patriarchal authority. :P lol.

  8. "One of the things that bothers me is how she never, ever gets away from her father's authority. Not even after she's married and has seven kids and numerous grandchildren."

    Eew. It's been a long time since I've read any of the books and don't remember anything but that I personally did not like Elsie.


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