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Literature / Elsie Dinsmore

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This series (28 books in all) was written by Martha Finley and published from 1867-1905. Targeted specifically at young girls, these Slice of Life books aimed to teach them how to be more Christlike by way of the adventures of the title character, a young girl born into a secular family who takes up Christianity. The first eight novels chronicle her maturation from a little girl to a widowed grandmother; further adventures of her and her descendants make up the remainder of the series. Wildly popular in its time, only Louisa May Alcott's work outsold these novels in the field of children's literature, and the series remains popular among Christian audiences today, if obscure to the general public.

Due to Values Dissonance and the resultant Unfortunate Implications found in these novels by modern audiences, at the Turn of the Millennium Mission City Press published an adaptation of the series, A Life of Faith — Elsie Dinsmore, that toned down the racism and parental abuse featured in the original texts. This ran for eight books and was succeeded by two additional eight-book series under the Life of Faith banner: Violet Travilla, which focused on one of Elsie's daughters featured in the later novels, and Millie Keith, an updated adaptation of another Finley-penned series.

These books provide examples of:

  • Big Fancy House: Nearly every house mentioned in the books, as they are all plantations. The main ones are Roselands, The Oaks, Ion, and Viamede.
  • Boarding School: Horace Jr. threatens to send Elsie to one if she does not behave like he wants her to.
  • Cool Old Lady: Wealthy Stanhope, Horace Jr's aunt.
  • Dances and Balls
  • Dead Guy Junior: Elsie herself and later Violet named after her grandmother, Violet Travilla.
  • Death by Childbirth: Elsie's mother
  • Elopement: Elsie Grayson and Horace Jr. elope, much to displeasure of their parents. They are later forced to separate.
  • Funetik Aksent: How all slaves speak in the original novels. Due to the Unfortunate Implications and Values Dissonance, A Life of Faith changes this speak into normal English.
  • Gold Digger: Enna Dinsmore and Tom Jackson.
  • Happily Married: Nearly every couple in the books, with the exception of Enna.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Aunt Chloe, the slaves at Ion, Edward Travilla's plantation. Any slave that disagrees is rebuked.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Elsie.
  • Henpecked Husband: Horace Sr.
  • Honorary Uncle: Edward Travilla is one to Elsie. Rose Allison is a female version.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Mrs. Violet Travilla and Elsie.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Arthur Dinsmore. He frequently teases and harasses Elsie, but also volunteers to help Elsie and even stands up for her on occasion.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Elsie in the first book.
  • Mammy: Aunt Chloe
  • The Matchmaker: Wealthy Stanhope
  • May–December Romance: Many, as these were desirable in the 19th century. The most prominent is Edward Travilla and Elsie Dinsmore.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Elsie, and all the other children, get one cup of coffee with breakfast. This was routine back then. When her dad returns, he won't let her have any. He also forbids hot rolls, toast and meat, but Elsie finds it hardest to give up her coffee.
  • Old Retainer: Aunt Chloe, the mammy to first Elsie's mother, then Elsie herself, and finally Elsie's children.
  • Parental Abandonment: Elsie's father Horace leaves her with her grandparents when she is young, while he travels Europe. He later returns. Elsie's mother is dead.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Horace Jr. gives one to Elsie and Bromly Edgerton because Bromly Edgerton is really Tom Jackson.
  • Parental Neglect- When he returns, Horace to Elsie. Elsie's grandfather as well.
  • Parental Substitute: Rose Allison as well.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Elsie is raised by her grandparents until her father returns.
  • Sadist Teacher: Miss Day, the governess.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Edward Travilla when he meets up with the Dinsmore's in Elsie's True Love.
  • Southern Belle: Both types are presented.
    • Bonne Belle: Elsie and Adelaide Dinsmore
    • Mauvaise Belle: Enna Dinsmore
  • Southern Gentlemen: All Dinsmore men, with the exception of Arthur. Edward Travilla as well.
  • Spoiled Brat: An argument could be made for all of Horace Sr.'s and the second Mrs. Dinsmore's children, but Enna and Arthur stand out.
  • Tell Me About My Father: Elsie asks this to Aunt Chloe when she learns that her father is returning from Europe. Later on, she asks her father about her mother.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Elsie's step-grandmother.
  • Wife Husbandry: Elsie marries Edward Travilla, who was one of her father's best friends, and her honorary uncle.