Saturday, September 7, 2013

Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This story addresses the adult more than the child and shows the history of the late 1800's when children's literature was not its own separate entity. It was emerging but this is a good example of the lines being blurred for its message is for the greedy adult who needs redemption as contrasted by a pure and innocent child. Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Secret Garden" and "A Little Princess" have more childlike aspects with imaginative play, friendships, and toys than this one, but it is still entertaining. Seven-year-old Cedric Errol is not your typical developmentally immature first grader although he does spell like one and has the wish-fulfillment of that age. Cedric can talk politics, is unselfish, and wise beyond his years. Or wise beyond belief depending your outlook. Not that it matters. He's more a symbol of a child's goodness. The result is the story grabbed me less than the other books because the character development concerns the grandfather and not the boy.

Cedric lives with his mother whom he calls, "Dearest," in a shabby house in New York. He is friends with a grocery store owner and shoeshiner. Cedric is so popular, well-loved, and sees the best in people that he's quite unreal. When he wins a foot race with some neighborhood boys he makes the loser feel like he won. When his mother is grieving for his father, he comforts her. When the adult neighbor comes to visit he makes a point to visit with her. When a lawyer shows up from England telling Cedric he has inherited a fortune and is now Lord Fauntleroy who can get anything he wants, he first help his friends not thinking of himself. The lawyer is charmed and Cedric and his mom go off to England to live with the grandfather, the Earl of Dorincourt. A lonely curmudgeon, Cedric enchants the Earl and thinks only the best of him. Loving the novelty of being a "good" guy for once in his life, the Earl spends his money to help others. Cedric idolizes and adores him. When another son claims to be Lord Fauntleroy, Cedric must give up all his newfound wealth.

Cedric innocently thinks his grandfather is a benevolent man and that perception is never altered through the course of the novel. The grandfather learns through Cedric how to be compassionate and kind and is changed as a result of the child. Cedric unintentionally teaches the Earl that a noble heart comes through generosity; that a family is strong when they love and trust each other. The story does not have much action in the beginning and spends quite a bit of time telling the plot, not showing. It picks up once Cedric gets to England but many readers might find it slow. I did find it interesting how Cedric is always positive no matter what the situation. While the story didn't wow me, I was getting slammed with the ugly side of human nature at work and the reminder to stay positive was the shot in the arm I sorely needed.

3 Smileys

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