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Literature / American Girls: Felicity

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Felicity Merriman, released in 1991, was the fourth historical character of the American Girls Collection, representing the time period of The American Revolution.

Felicity "Lissie" Merriman is a spunky tomboy who loves horseback riding. As Felicity grows up in Williamsburg, VA, tensions begin to grow between the colonists, including her own family and friends. Her books revolve around loyalty and staying true to one's beliefs.

Books in the series:

  1. Meet Felicity
  2. Felicity Learns a Lesson
  3. Felicity's Surprise
  4. Happy Birthday, Felicity!
  5. Felicity Saves the Day
  6. Changes for Felicity

A film adaptation titled Felicity: An American Girl Adventure was released in 2004, starring Shailene Woodley as Felicity.


The series includes the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the original Felicity books, Felicity's best friend Elizabeth is a brunette, but in the movie, she's a blonde (as is her doll form). Later editions had the illustrations changed to match this.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Felicity's family and close friends call her "Lissie."
  • All for Nothing: After Jiggy Nye takes Penny back despite Felicity successfully taming and riding her, the girl feels that it was pointless to try. Her father tells her that even if she didn't succeed, she still worked hard to earn Penny's trust, and that he's proud of her for doing so.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Felicity sure does, at least.
  • Alpha Bitch: Annabelle, Elizabeth's older sister, is a haughty and snobbish Big Sister Bully.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Ben, the store apprentice to Felicity's father, is presented as this to Felicity. He's an older male friend (about 15 to her 10) who often argues with her, but just as frequently helps her out and tries to give her advice.
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  • Betrayal by Inaction: In Learns a Lesson, Felicity feels this way about Elizabeth not speaking up for her when Annabelle lies about her father and calls him a traitor to the king. When Felicity talks to her mother about it, Mrs. Merriman is more understanding, gently pointing out that Elizabeth isn't as brave or outspoken as Felicity and has been bullied by Annabelle her whole life.
  • Berserk Button: Do not say anything positive about the King or the British within Ben’s presence.
  • Condescending Compassion: In Very Funny, Elizabeth!, Miss Priscilla gives backhanded compliments to the Cole sisters in this fashion—for example, commenting that their dresses are pretty while saying she had one in that style long ago when it used to be fashionable. Annabelle blindly admires her too much to realize that it is a criticism, but Elizabeth is able to see through it.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: In Felicity Learns a Lesson, Felicity doesn't know what to do at the tea-serving lessons when her family stops drinking tea to protest the king's taxes. In the end, she is able to politely turn down tea, using the proper words as taught to her by Miss Manderly.
  • Dad the Veteran: Felicity's father mentions being in a war when he chides his apprentice Ben about being excited by a war with England.
  • A Day in the Limelight/Hero of Another Story: Elizabeth takes over as the protagonist of her own book Very Funny, Elizabeth, with Annabelle as the deuteragonist, focusing on the latter being engaged to a handsome lord named Harry Lacey.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Felicity's family owns two slaves — Rose and Marcus — and her grandfather owns a large plantation and thus, owns several slaves. Felicity almost never acknowledges the issues with owning people (she finds time on the plantation to be pleasant) and considers Rose and Marcus part of her family. In the Journey book, the time-traveling protagonist is extremely unnerved by the prospect of seeing slaves at work while touring the land, and an encounter with two slaves that were "night-walking" to another plantation to visit makes her worry that Felicity will turn them in. (Felicity doesn't, but she does make them go back to the slave quarters.)
  • Dreadful Musician: Happy Birthday reveals that Annabelle is a terrible singer and guitar player.
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: Felicity and her peers have to learn how and when to do it as part of their formal education.
  • Fashion Hurts/Of Corset Hurts: Felicity would like to run around freely without stays (a type of corset).
  • Fatal Flaw: Felicity really needs to understand that she can't always have everything she wants.
  • Feminine Mother, Tomboyish Daughter: Felicity is the tomboyish protagonist — she would rather explore and ride horses than sit and do embroidery. Her mother Martha is a Proper Lady from a well-to-do family who expresses exasperation at Felicity's tomboyishness and wishes that her daughter matures into a genteel young woman.
  • Flower Motif: In Happy Birthday, Felicity is fighting with a particular weed in the garden that just keeps coming back no matter how many times she digs it up. At the end of the book, Grandfather puts the weed in a vase and it blooms with lovely pink flowers. He compares it to Felicity, because it's stubborn and spirited, as well as beautiful.
  • Friendship Trinket: When Mr. Cole is arrested for being a Loyalist, Mrs. Cole refuses to let any Patriot family come to her house, preventing Felicity from seeing Elizabeth. At church, Felicity gives Elizabeth her sampler with Faithful Friends Forever Be stitched on it, and Elizabeth later puts it in the window of her house for Felicity to see it, reaffirming that they are still friends.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Much of Felicity's redesigned collection looked to have been made to evoke this.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Felicity and Elizabeth are close friends and do almost everything together.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Changes for Felicity reveals that Jiggy Nye was once a well-respected horse trainer and knew more about taking care of animals than anyone in Williamsburg, but became a violent drunkard after his wife's death.
  • Hypocrite: Annabelle thinks it's perfectly alright to call Elizabeth "Bitsy", but hits the roof when she walks in on Felicity mocking her with the name "Bananabelle".
  • Irony: Annabelle is very outspoken on being on the Loyalist side of the colonial conflict, yet she has a crush on Ben, a Patriot who is just as outspoken about being against the king's taxes. She's aware of his beliefs, but believes she'll be able to change his mind when they get married.
  • Kindly Housekeeper: Felicity's servants were probably slaves and in some of the mysteries, are outright stated to be, but they fit the trope somewhat nonetheless.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Meet Felicity was adapted into the Made-for-TV Movie Felicity: An American Girl Adventure.
  • Malicious Misnaming: In Very Funny, Elizabeth!, Annabelle's potential older sister-in-law Miss Priscilla never gets her name right and keeps calling her Florabelle, Mirabelle, Suzabelle, etc. to passive-aggressively demean her.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Felicity means "happiness" which derives from the Latin "felicitas" meaning "good luck" and she is a lucky and happy girl.
    • The name of Felicity's horse, Penny, is actually short for Independence. It also refers to the color of her coat, brown and shiny like the copper coin.
  • Meekness Is Weakness: Felicity envies "lads" because they're allowed to do more; she finds stitching and tea ceremonies stifling and the people who like them dull and vapid.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Why Kevin Zegers was cast as Ben Davidson in Felicity: An American Girl Adventure.
  • Oblivious to Love: In Very Funny, Elizabeth!, Ben doesn't pick up on the fact that Annabelle is flirting with him, even when she mentions weddings.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: In Very Funny, Elizabeth!, Annabelle is engaged to Lord Harry, but his sister Priscilla is extremely obnoxious and keeps insulting the Cole sisters with backhanded compliments while teaching them to behave like proper English ladies. She is so much of a pain to deal with that Annabelle and Harry both call off the engagement because of her — Harry because his sister bullied him into it, and Annabelle because she knows that, while she could live happily with Harry, she could never stand having Priscilla as a sister-in-law.
  • Pet the Dog: Annabelle assists Elizabeth and their mother in sewing Felicity's blue ballgown when Mrs. Merriman is too ill to do it herself.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Elizabeth wears a beribboned pink dress in her focus book Very Funny, Elizabeth!, noticeably a contrast to Felicity's blue gown from Felicity's Surprise.
  • Princess Phase: The Girliness Upgrade of Felicity's collection, which was criticized for putting frills and jewels before everyday practicality and occasionally historical accuracy, is suspected to be aimed at grabbing the younger end of the 8-12 range just as they're coming out of their Disney Princess doll collecting.
  • Proper Lady: Felicity’s mother is this, and she expects her daughter to grow up and act like one as well. Despite being only six, Felicity's younger sister Nan already behaves like one, neat and courteous.
  • Redhead In Green: Felicity usually avoided this, but her riding outfit was very green and two minor outfits were partially green as well (the work gown and the limited-edition Town Fair Outfit).
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Impulsive Fiery Redhead Felicity and cooler headed Elizabeth, especially in Very Funny, Elizabeth! when the girls were discussing plans on how to prevent Elizabeth from being moved to England, Felicity discussed them running away to the Kentucky Frontier while Elizabeth comes up with a more convenient and hilarious plan.
  • Retcon:
    • A drastic example is Elizabeth Cole being changed from a brown-eyed brunette to a blue-eyed blonde. All the images and text of Felicity's stories were updated to make it like she'd always been blonde.
    • Another minor example is Felicity's original meet gown. The original books and dolls showed her in a rose-print gown. It's pretty, but the pattern manages not to be overly girly. Later editions give her a lavender gown with multicolored flowers and white flourishes, looking much cuter and stereotypically girlier. (Both gowns have been around the whole time, but initially, the lavender gown was an extra not tied to any specific book, then the two were switched.)
  • Shrinking Violet: Sort-of deconstructed in Felicity Learns a Lesson. Felicity becomes angry with Elizabeth for not speaking up when Annabelle lied about and insulted her father; however, it is resolved when Elizabeth decides to grow a spine and stand up to her abrasive older sister.
    Elizabeth: I hate being called Bitsy. From now on, call me Elizabeth. Or I will call you Bananabelle in front of everyone. Annabelle, Bananabelle.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Felicity, the line's first and most important redhead.
  • Southern Belle: Annabelle Cole, given her relocation to Virginia could be a British born take on the Mauvaise Belle. She is vain, self-centered, strives for Ben’s affections and is an absolute bitch to Felicity and her own sister.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Felicity is expected to be "ladylike" and is trained in how to act like one.
  • Stupid Evil: Jiggy Nye mistreating Penny is considered not just cruel but foolish, with horses (especially young, well-bred ones like Penny) being as valuable as they are.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Angry because Penny is being willful, Jiggy Nye mutters that anyone who can ride her can have her, and Felicity takes this literally. With patience, she is able to befriend and tame Penny in secret, and rides her into town to show her family the horse is tame...but ultimately, Penny doesn't belong to her. When Jiggy Nye shows up to take Penny back, Felicity has to let her go. The best she can do is secretly going to Penny's pasture one more time and setting her free.
  • Sympathetic Slave Owner: Felicity's family has two servants, Marcus and Rose, and whilst the book does clearly imply the two being slaves, they are by and large treated well by their owners.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • In Felicity's Surprise, Ben calls Felicity selfish and foolish when he sees her mooning over the gown she's going to wear to the governor's ball, angry that she wants to go to the ball because of how the governor has mistreated the colonists. Felicity wonders if he's right, wanting to keep her independent spirit while also wanting to look forward to the ball. Eventually, he changes his mind when he sees her still working hard during Christmas, taking care of her ill mother, doing chores and cheering up her younger siblings. He helps Elizabeth finish Felicity's gown by sneaking it out of the house, and later escorts her to the palace.
    • In the next book, when Ben runs away to join the Patriot army, Felicity tries to convince him to come back after learning that two men are hunting him down and willing to take him back by brute force if necessary. When he refuses by saying it’d be cowardly to go back, Felicity says he’s a coward anyway for running away from her father, his mentor, breaking his promise to serve as his apprentice, and for hurting her and her family who love and care for him.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Felicity and her peers have to learn to sew samplers as part of their lessons on how to be a Proper Lady (although she dislikes sewing, finding it tiresome and boring). Elizabeth also helps sew Felicity's blue ballgown.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Felicity and Elizabeth fill these roles; Felicity is outspoken, headstrong, and determined to ride the unruly horse Penny, while Elizabeth is a calm, shy Proper Lady in training. To a lesser extent this also applies to Felicity and her little sister, Nan.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Although Felicity enjoys activities typical for boys in her day, such as horseback-riding and climbing trees, she comes to enjoy the etiquette lessons at Miss Manderly's house and is thrilled at the idea of attending a fancy ball at the Governor’s mansion in a beautiful blue velvet gown.
  • True Blue Femininity: The beautiful blue gown that Felicity wears to the governor's ball in Felicity's Surprise.
  • Unwillingly Girly Tomboy: Felicity much prefers riding horses, digging in the gardens, and working in her father’s general store than going to etiquette lessons. Nonetheless, her mother expects her to act like a Proper Lady whenever she can.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Felicity and Ben are friends, but often bicker due to their equally headstrong and brash personalities. When Felicity finds Ben in the woods, she has to remind herself to not be mad at him.
  • War Is Hell: When Ben says that it might take a war to put an end to the king's mistreatment of the colonists, Mr. Merriman rebukes him, saying that war is a terrible thing because of the loss and grief it causes.
    Mr. Merriman: You have not seen war as I have. War is the worst way to solve disagreements. War is like a terrible illness. Everyone suffers. People die. Those who survive are weakened, and 'tis a long while before they are full strength again.