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Literature / A Girl of the Limberlost

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A Girl of the Limberlost is a 1909 novel written by Gene Stratton-Porter, that is a sequel to her earlier book Freckles.

Elnora Comstock is an impoverished girl who resides on the edge of the Limberlost Swamp, near where Freckles once did. She lives only with her neglectful mother who blames her for the death of her father, since she was giving birth to Elnora on the night her father drowned in the swamp and was unable to rescue him as a result. Elnora begins her freshman year of high school, but her first day goes awry when she shows up in her unstylish country clothes and is mocked by the other students. Things take a turn for the worse once she realizes that she can't afford to pay for her books and tuition, and knows that she will receive no help from her mother who wants her to work at home instead.

However, she ends up finding an ad from someone looking and willing to pay for any sort of moth, butterfly, or pupae shell that can be brought to them. Knowing that the swamp is full of these, Elnora meets the owner of the ad, the Bird Woman, who agrees for pay for every insect and artifact that Elnora can find for her.

The book takes places in two halves; with the first following Elnora's high school years and the relationship between her and mother, while the second focuses on her love story. Although it's a follow-up to an earlier book of hers, Girl of the Limberlost is widely considered by fans of Gene Stratton-Porter to be one her best stories.

Can be found online here.

The books provide examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: One of the highlights of Elnora's awful first day of school is her teacher mispronouncing her last name as "Cornstalk" instead of "Comstock".
  • All-Loving Hero: Elnora Comstock doesn't have a mean bone anywhere in her body. The closest she ever gets to averting this was after the "Reason You Suck" Speech she gave to her mother during her Despair Event Horizon, but forgave her instantly after Mrs. Comstock realized she was wrong and tried to make things right.
  • Apology Gift: The apex of Edith's Character Development occurs right after her reciprocated Love Confession to Hart. She spies the rare moth Elnora has been trying to find for ages and with Hart's help, they manage to catch it. The two race over to Elnora and Phil's wedding where Edith presents it to Elnora as a wedding gift. The four are able to depart on good terms.
  • Babies Ever After: As we see at the end, Freckles and the Angel have had four children post the events of Freckles.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: After Mrs. Comstock first slaps Elnora for "bossing" her, and then crushes the last moth Elnora needed for her collection despite her repeated pleas to stop, the infinitely patient Elnora has finally had enough:
    Elnora: You never made any pretence of loving me. At last I'll be equally frank with you. I hate you! You are a selfish, wicked woman! I hate you!
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends:
  • Continuity Cameo: Freckles and the Angel finally show up around the end of the book when Elnora goes to stay with them.
  • Country Mouse: Elnora finds herself as this when she first enters high school. Once the other students accept her and she makes friends, they view this more as one of her interesting quirks.
  • Drama Queen: Edith has a reputation for making a scene when she's upset or doesn't get what she wants. It's what kills her and Phil's relationship for good; after she makes a huge scene and tells Phil she wants to end things with him after the incident at their engagement party. Since she's done this multiple times before, she assumes they'll make up the next day but Phil is so upset by her behavior that he finally loses any romantic feelings still had towards her. When she realizes that he genuinely wants to end their relationship, she responds by immediately fainting to the floor.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Elnora originally decides to hide the money she earns from selling moths in Freckle's cabin. Pete Corson later finds it and, not knowing who it belongs to, steals it. When he discovers later that it belonged to Elnora and that she was using it to pay for school, he returns the money and leaves an anonymous note warning her to be more careful with it since his fellow gang members wouldn't have been as kind as he was if they had found it.
  • Happily Adopted: Billy to Margaret and Wesley Sinton.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Hart Henderson is obviously in love with Edith, but is accepting of the fact that she and Phil are engaged and doesn't act in any way romantically towards her. Even after the big breakup, Hart pleads with her to try to apologize to Phil so they can possibly salvage their engagement.
  • Love Epiphany: After his public breakup with Edith, Phil discusses with his father how happy he was with Elnora in the Limberlost, and decides to return and visit her. The second he sees her again, Phil realizes that he loves her.
    • Edith has one towards Hart Henderson at the end of the story.
  • Mama Bear: Mrs. Comstock becomes this in the second half of the book, particularly in regards to Elnora and Phil's relationship.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Mrs. Comstock has one of these after she learns about her husband's infidelity, realizes that she's been neglecting her daughter over a man who never truly loved her, and grasps that she may have finally driven Elnora to completely despise her
    • Edith eventually has one after she admits it was her own behavior that caused Phil to leave her.
  • No Accounting for Taste: Most of Phil's close relatives and friends can't understand why he's still with Edith. Even his own father, after he hears Phil's glowing description of Elnora, says that he can't believe that Phil would willingly leave a girl like that and return to Edith.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: The Bird Woman is extremely sympathetic when she hears about Elnora's awful first day of school. She then explains that the exact same thing happened to herself when she was a girl.
  • Oblivious to Love: Elnora doesn't realize that the reason Pete Corson is nice to her and helps her occasionally with moth hunting is because he has a crush on her.
  • Precocious Crush: Billy has on on Elnora, until the end when he meets Alice O'Moore.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: After putting up wither her abuse for years, Elnora finally gives one to her mother after she kills the rare final moth she needed for a collection that would pay her college tuition, accuses Elnora of lying about it, and strikes her.
    • Later in the chapter, Mrs. Comstock gives one to Elvira Carney after she learns about her and Mr. Comstock's affair.
  • Rich Bitch: Edith Carr, although she eventually has a Heel–Face Turn when she realizes how awful she's been.
  • Self-Deprecation: Edith goes into a bout of this after her Heel–Face Turn, as she realizes that Elnora is a much superior person to herself in every way.
  • Self-Proclaimed Love Interest: Edith still refers to herself as Phil's fiancee after their breakup, despite the fact that he's made it clear that he want to be with Elnora. It's mainly because she believes that she can easily win him back if she wanted to. Phil would beg to differ.
  • Shipper on Deck: Immediately when they first meet, Polly Ammon and Tom Levering discreetly let Elnora know how pleased that are to see her with Phil.
  • Talented, but Trained: Elnora's violin skills. It's suggested that she may have somehow inherited them from her father, but she still is very persistent in practicing.