Chapter 14: Smilin' Through
Miss Frances, who has been harassing Bertha and her friends since chapter
2, now accuses Bertha of stealing food from the Towers lunchroom. (She
has been bringing goodies to the cat.) Try as she might, Frances has never
caught the cat. Madame Blavatsky is now reading—and critiquing—children’s
literature. Noticing how much Frances looks like Tenniel’s Queen of Hearts,
the cat disguises herself as the Cheshire Cat and drives Frances into a
This story provides comic relief after the tragedy of Coyote’s story.
There have been a play, two films, and a song titled “
Smilin’ Through.” They’re all about overcoming obstacles. None of
them have anything to do with a tricky and obstacular cat.
The wood-block illustrations created by Sir John Tenniel are the most
famous illustrations of the
Alice books by Lewis Carroll.
Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch by Alice Hegan Rice is an extremely
sentimental novel published in 1901. I thought it was pretty sappy when
I read it when I was eight or nine. In 1934, it was made into a movie starring
Pauline Lord and W.C. Fields. Pinocchio is of course the puppet who becomes
a real boy in the stories first written in 1883 by Carlo Collodi. Disney
made the first
Pinocchio movie in 1940. As a rebel herself, Blavatsky no doubt
enjoyed the puppet’s adventures. Maybe Bertha rented the movie and they
watched it together.
Daily dramas on TV.
As the World Turns ran from 1956 to 2010.
General Hospital debuted in 1963 and, as far as I know, is still
All My Children started in 1970 and concluded in September, 2011.
Literary allusions are to
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Queen of Hearts, Cheshire Cat),
A Christmas Carol (Marley’s Ghost and Scrooge’s protestation that
the ghost is only a symptom of indigestion),
Harvey (“And how are you, Frances J. Swift?”),
Peter Pan (Captain Hook and the ticking crocodile), and other old-fashioned
When was the last time you read any of the kidlit Blavatsky is reading?
What children’s books were your favorites? Do you like the movies made
from some of these books?
Does Frances remind you of anyone you know? How do we deal with people
Does Frances deserve what she gets? Why or why not? How would the rest
of the book be different if she had stayed on as residence manager? What
does this tell us about the unintended consequences of our actions?
Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Permission
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Secret Lives Reader’s Guide for personal use only.