Friday, May 13, 2011

Roller Skates (1937)

(Trouble getting a picture of the book.  I'll try later.)

In Roller Skates we meet Lucinda--eager for excitement, impulsive, kind-hearted.  The story is set in 1890s New York City.  Lucinda's parents depart for Europe and leave Lucinda to live with Miss Peters and Miss Nettie.  Lucinda, now "orphaned," pretty much has the run of New York City.  In Lucinda's mind why walk when you can run, why run when you can roller skate?  She loved to roller skate and used them as her main mode of transportation.

She makes friends with everyone she meets--the cabbie, Mr. Gilligan; the policeman, Patrolman M'Gonegal; Tony, the boy whose father runs the fruit stand; even the junkman, Rags-N'-Bottles.  Each of these help Lucinda and are helped by her in return.  Mostly they love how she is so carefree, just as a young girl ought to be, without inhibition or affectation.

One of Lucinda's favorite people is her Uncle Earle.  He rescues her from sewing sessions with Aunt Emily and her prissy girl cousins.  He seems to know that she was not made in the mold of his own daughters, and loves her just the same.  He introduces her to Shakespeare, which she loves and decides to put on her own theatrical version of Twelfth Night.  They read some comedies and then Uncle Earle introduced her to tragedy.  He said, "In fine tragedies, such as the Greeks and William Shakespeare wrote, what happens must be inevitable--unescapable.  It must make you feel right about the ending.  And great tragedies must have beauty in them; otherwise what's the use?"(p. 150)

Lucinda takes a special liking to a 4-year-old upstairs neighbor girl.  When she discovers this family is very poor, she begins to do little things to help them.  She watches "Trinket" and takes her to the toy store.  She makes a Christmas tree for her.  Spoiler:  Do not read the next paragraph if you don't want to know a major plot line.

Trinket gets very sick and Dr. Hitchcock, called in on the last day, is not able to save her.  Dr. Hitchcock tells Lucinda that the Eskimos believe that when a person dies her soul becomes a white gull.  Lucinda replies, referring to Trinket's parents, "I could tell them about the gulls.  That would be putting beauty into it, wouldn't it?  Uncle Earle said there must be lots and lots of beauty to make it great, and it must be inevitable; that in the end it must all add up right.  Do you think it will add up some day, Doctor Hitchcock?"  He replies, "I think we must believe that.  Otherwise, what would be the use of going on?" (p166-167)

Maybe I liked theses quotes on tragedy because they remind me to see beauty in life in the face of tragedy, and we all have tragedy.  To look for the beauty and that it will all add up, "otherwise, what's the use?"

One other quote, just because of how odd it is.  "Lucinda always got excited over a soda at Huyler's.  To lean on the counter and gaze at the cake of ice with a red rose frozen inside always made her think of lovely things: like Snow White in her little crystal coffin; and Alpine climbers who had fallen down a crevasse and came out years afterwards in a Swiss glacier, looking fresh and perfect, just like the red rose." (p. 179-180)  Lucinda obviously did not have a subscription to National Geographic in which there has been at least one article on frozen Alpine climbers, who do not look perfect, like the red rose.

Sawyer, Ruth. Roller Skates. Viking, 1936.

1 comment:

  1. (Judy--can't figure out how to post as Judy since starting the other blog.)Can I tell you again how happy I am that you are doing this? I enjoy reading your posts about the books and look forward to the next one. When you are done with this list of books, I will send you another list of books to read and post about.