by Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide
“Before You Meet Prince Charming” by Sarah Mally has a few interesting points in its favor.
- Sarah Mally has reached the level of writing competence found among high school graduates! She understands and uses the conventions of the English language fluently; After “Preparing to Be A Helpmeet” and “It’s (Not) That Complicated”, I am grateful to read a book without feeling a compulsion to pull out a red pen and fix the mistakes.
- Ms. Mally starts each chapter of the book with an allegorical tale involving a teen-age princess living in a kingdom. Writing this was more complicated than the common “exhortation and advice” style of religious self-help books that I’ve previously reviewed.
- The Princess is the archetype of Christian Patriarchy unmarried daughters who want to do “what is right” in the words of the author which means “follow the rules of CP without questioning if possible”.
- The King is the archetype of the Christian Patriarchy father. His wisdom is deep and unfailing; his goal with his daughter is to keep her completely unaware of the emotional entanglements and “vices” of the world.
- The Queen is the archetype of the Christian Patriarchy mother. She is present in a few vignettes, but seems to have given all of the duties of instructing her daughter over to her husband.
- The Villagers or the People stand for everyone outside of Christian Patriarchy. None of them understand why the Princess is kept as sheltered as she is. Most of them want the Princess to “experience life”. Their main purpose is to serve as a counter-point of how horrible life is for people who “experience life”. Their secondary purpose is to be enlightened by the sheltered Princess’ life.
- The Alligator is the urge every CP unmarried daughter has to break free and experience life. This is why the Alligator is the main antagonist of the book.
- The Princess rides home from visiting her aunt and uncle some distance away.
- As she rides home, an elderly couple and their grandson see her. The grandparents explain that she’s a princess both by birth and by conduct.
- The unseen, omniscient narrator lets us know that the Princess is still young because she sometimes forgets to obey her parents, occasionally questions their ways and finds people who disagree with her parents rationale understandable.
- During this ride, the Princess wonders why her father is concerned about the People’s behaviors and opinions as well as what her future holds.
- She’s met by a sentinel sent by her father in case she was delayed. The two chat and part ways.
- The narrator returns to let us know that she’s riding unaccompanied because the King wants her to serve people – but that the King protects her from unspecified dangerous activities that were seen as harmless by the People. The narrator returns to the theme that the Princess can’t possibly appreciate all her parents do for her because of her youth – even when she obeys them without question. Likewise, the Princess has hopes and dreams about doing good works – but she really, really would like to meet the right Prince for her and get married. She’s 16.
- As the Princess stops to stare into space and daydream think of all the major works she’s going to accomplish, the Alligator swims up in the moat. The Alligator tells her that she’s unduly sheltered and lacks the skills she needs to fulfill her unspecified dreams. The Princess responds each time by saying that the King knows what’s best for her. The Alligator tells her to be ready to make her own choices when it becomes necessary.
- When writing fiction, a good author shows the reader instead of telling the reader. In this section, every piece of information about the royal family is explicitly told. Even the feelings of the People towards the Princess is expressed through a canned conversation between the elderly Grandparents and their Grandson.
- I’m already finding the Princess’s world stilted.
- She’s royalty – but her father wants her to help her people – but she’s not supposed to pick up any of the People’s unspecified bad habits.
- I will admit, however, that this is an excellent allegory for Christian Patriarchy families. The family is better than the average person due to their rigorous lifestyle and should be helping the world around them without accidentally contaminating their lifestyle with any of the worldly views of the people they are helping.
- Children may not have the moral or cognitive depth to explain their beliefs to outsiders, but a 16-year-old girl needs stronger rhetoric than a slightly more polished version of “Dad said it’s wrong and I shouldn’t do it.”
- The sum total of good works done by the Princess in this first section is “picking up vegetables that an old woman dropped”. That is NOT a ringing endorsement of the King’s plan to have her serve her people.
- The Alligator makes two good points.
- First, what skills does the Princess have that can help her people? Based on what I’ve read, she can pick up veggies and ride a horse. Even with that limited skill set, she’s not done anything particularly note-worthy like bringing food to the elderly or ill.
- Second, the Princess will have to make decisions on her own some day. Neither her parents nor her future husband will be available every second of every day for the rest of her life. It’s not possible for either of those two authority sources to list out in great detail what to do in every situation that could occur.
- If you need further proof of the Princess’ helplessness, she can’t even break of the conversation with the Alligator; the beginning of the the storm does that.
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