Work: A Story of Experience: Part II (Chapters 5 ~ 8)
So in Chapter 5, our heroine Christie Devon starts a new job as – ironically enough, considering her earlier statements – a carer for an invalid girl, Helen Carrol. Helen is emotionally distraught, the reasons for which we learn rather later in the chapter. Anyway, Christie works her usual charm by being patient, kind and loving, and becomes a confidant not only for Helen but for the whole Carrol family. I found this chapter of Christie’s life touching and somewhat dramatic. I won’t go into details lest I spoil every last flash of surprise!
After a well-deserved rest to restore her drained yet content self, Christie takes up the work as a seamstress and slowly befriends a silent girl named Rachel, who seems to be craving friendship so much but is reluctant to enter into any. Rachel carries a dark secret that comes to light later in a public manner. But before that happens, Christie and Rachel become very good friends and Christie is the only one who does not abandon her. She speaks:
“Mrs. King, if you send her away, I must take her in; for if she does go back to the old life, the sin of it will lie at our door, and God will remember it against us in the end. Some one must trust her, help her, love her, and so save her, as nothing else will. Perhaps I can do this better than you,—at least, I’ll try; for even if I risk the loss of my good name, I could bear that better than the thought that Rachel had lost the work of these hard years for want of upholding now.”
A Christian gesture or the goodness of her heart? I think it’s a little bit of both. If Alcott wrote this novel in hopes of inspiring other people to be more like Christie, I’m afraid she was overly optimistic. I cannot speak for people from her era, but I’ll be presumptuous enough to claim that this book won’t have the desired effect in many people. Christie’s almost too good to be true; even though she does go through hard phases in her life, she still does so with innate good nature, unwavering moral and diligence. She’s certainly admirable, but not relatable.
In the seventh and eighth chapter, she tries to find her way “through the mist” (the aptly named title of Chapter 7). She is what I’d call “burnt-out”: she finds her life devoid of useful meaning, fails to make a real connection to God through churches (not-so-subtle critiques here) and is tight on money because people aren’t as honest as she is and finding works as an independent seamstress is hard. Plus she’s been through an illness that has weakened her body and mind. Why she hasn’t gone back to being a governess I do not know.
In this state Christie meets Rachel again, and is introduced to Mrs. Wilkins, a cheery woman with a big family, who, if not rich in the sense of materialism, is rich in spirit. From her and her children Christie finds healing her spirit much needed.
My problem throughout the whole story so far is that I still haven’t been able to connect with Christie. She’s just a girl who’s two-dimensional because I can’t imagine her living in a real world. She does change her world and the people she comes across through the goodness of her heart but at the same time she’s duped by others because of that naïvety. Oh, she exasperates me sometimes by firmly believing that she may just as well die but she will trust a stranger with her whole heart – well, trust away, my dear, for they are the ones who are holding the noose by refusing to pay you the money you have rightfully earned.
I’m all hooray for being a trusting person who has faith in others but being too selfless – sacrificing one’s life (to be dramatic) so you die with a clear conscience – is just stupid because it’s suicidal. But Christie, you are more than welcome to disagree with me.