- Alternative Character Interpretation: Is Elsie a good Christian girl who does what The Bible says or is she a whiny girl who believes she is Holier Than Thou and does not stand up for herself? Even if she is just a good Christian girl, it doesn't prevent Elsie from enjoying an extremely rich lifestyle and fancy clothes, which Christ said not to do; he told rich people to give their stuff to the poor.
- Fair for Its Day: While a lot of the views in this series are...dated, to say the least, when Elsie comes of age, she inherits her mother's plantation, Viamede, and her father informs her that she is old enough to be responsible for her own money, teaching her business and money management before their trip there, despite her initial reluctance. Later on, when she's married to Edward Travilla, he doesn't touch a cent of Elsie's money without her permission, even though he is entitled to it by law as her husband, and himself has fairly progressive ideals, and treats Elsie no less than an equal in their marriage.
- Narm: The books are absolutely drowning in Melodrama, namely in the form of everyone treating small misdemeanors with all the gravity of a genocide and foaming at the mouth in doing so, especially when it comes to scolding Elsie over...well, everything.
- Narm Charm: The series does have its fans in spite of (or perhaps because of) the ridiculous melodrama surrounding the titular Southern heiress.
- Tear Jerker: Horace forcing Chloe away from Elsie, made worse in the "Life of Faith" reprints that state this wasn't the first time Chloe was separated from those she loved.
- "Elsie's New Life" ends on quite a somber note, with Elsie reviving news that her longtime friend Herbert Carrington had died. After reading a letter from his sister, thanking her for being in his life, she asks her father if she can go watch the sunset that night.
- The Scrappy: To people who hate the series, practically everyone is this, especially Elsie, Enna, Miss Day, Horace Jr., and Mrs. Dinsmore. Much of this can be attributed to Values Dissonance and the many, many Unfortunate Implications that come from Finley's writing and the time period.
- Signature Scene: The chapter where Elsie faints at the piano during a battle of wills with her father.
- Values Dissonance: There's a lot.
- There's rampant racism towards the slaves. They enjoy slavery, which is portrayed as good for them. On top of this, many misogynistic views are expressed by both male and female characters.
- Modern readers might think of this as a Dickens novel, similar to David Copperfield. In the original work, Elsie's grandparents treated her like dirt and favored their own children, who stole from Elsie and bullied her with impunity. This may have been Truth in Television, but it was not considered normal relations in the sense of "the way things should be". Elsie's father ruled her with an iron fist, and because she loved him (which he at first did not believe), she was willing to give him absolute obedience, save where his will conflicted with God's commands. Of course in those days parents were strict, but Elsie's father was not merely strict. He believed the worst of her for many months and could not conceive that her Christian faith was sincere. This has been drastically toned down in the modern editions.
- Elsie discovers a tiny songbird trapped under a glass jar in direct sunlight. It looks like the kind of vicious stunt Arthur would pull, and she promptly lifts the jar. It turns out this bird was captured by her father and set in the sun to kill it so that he could have it as a "prize specimen" for his collection. He punishes Elsie mercilessly for her "meddling" and makes her promise not to do so in the future. Values Dissonance, indeed.
- After the first two books when Elsie's father converts, he is quite physically affectionate with her, including kissing her on the lips from time to time. This wouldn't fly in today's media, especially since the dialogue makes it seem like they're lovers. It's Lampshaded by Enna in the fourth book.
- Elsie's MayDecember Romance with Edward Travilla. Her father does make her wait until she's 22 to marry him... but on the other hand, Edward talks about having wanted to marry Elsie when she was seven, and says thing like she'd be the perfect bride if she were older. Yikes...
- When Elsie visits Viamede (her plantation) and converts slave children, she tells them they will be white in Heaven. Naturally, this line (and any other line about non-white people being made white in heaven) is cut from the reprints.
- Wangst: This is one of the main reasons the books are looked down upon today, as Elsie tends to completely freak out over stupid things, usually by responding with "Oh! I failed to do X and Y, so I shall never be like Jesus!"
- "Weird Al" Effect: In the early 20th century, the terms "Elsie Dinsmore", or alternatively "Don't be such an Elsie Dinsmore", were used against people who were considered dull sticks-in-the-mud. It's not so much used anymore, but plenty of older movies do use this insult, such as The Man Who Came to Dinner, where lead character Sheridan Whiteside jokingly calls his secretary as Elsie Dinsmore.
- There are also English students who first learned of the series though Eudora Welty's autobiographical novel One Writer's Beginnings, where Welty talks about how the books were the only books she was forbidden to read by her mother during her childhood in the 1920's.
- Fans of Shirley Jackson might have first heard of Elsie from a chance remark by her daughter Jannie in Raising Demons, as Jannie is trying to help solve a mystery (her brother's missing shoe) using examples from literature including the Beverly Gray series (Jackson refers to it as Beverly Lee) and Elsie Dinsmore.
- What an Idiot!: Horace Jr, you receive letters from your stepmother telling you that Elsie is a naughty child, but when you meet her, she's nice, submissive, and wants nothing more than to love you. Would it kill you to even question your stepmother's credibility and suspect she's lying about Elsie's overall character? Especially since your stepmother has made it clear that she's never liked you? The fact that he never does this makes his treatment of Elsie in the first two books even worse in hindsight. Granted, the point of this was to show how prideful and stubborn he was pre-conversion. Still, this subplot could have been handled better.
- The Woobie:
- Despite the Alternative Character Interpretation mentioned above, Elsie undeniably had a pretty crappy early life. Her step-grandmother treated her like dirt, her grandfather's children bullied her to seemingly no end, and when her father comes back from Europe he almost immediately assumes the worst about his daughter and treats her even worse, which eventually leads to her becoming sick from the stress of her father refusing to talk to her (and he won't allow anyone else to either). As an adult, she falls for a man that turned out to only be interested in her money, only discovering this after having happened to pass by a saloon with said Gold Digger bragging to his buddies he never loved her. Ouch.
- Aunt Chloe is something of a Stoic Woobie. She lost two of her children to now-preventable childhood diseases, another died from drowning, and her only living daughter was taken from her, and Chloe was sold away from her husband 20 years before the books begin, but she never shows her grief.
- Enna is a bit of a Jerkass Woobie. When you consider her parents' way of raising her, it's easy to see why she became such a brat and emotionally stunted, still acting like a child in her mid-30's. Not helping is that the authoress gave her a particularly harsh demise.
- Walter, while not a bully to his niece, was too shy to stand up for her and felt immense guilt for the longest time about it. Later, when he's grown, instead of enlisting in the war, he stays home at the Roselands to help run the household. Instead of being grateful, his parents shame him for his "cowardice," and for having a "Yankee" fiancee.
YMMV / Elsie Dinsmore