Monday, December 16, 2013

Reader's Diary #1092- Elizabeth L. Seymour: The Burglar's Christmas



Despite the title, Seymour's (Willa Cather, writing under a pseudonym) "The Burglar's Christmas" owes more to the prodigal son story than to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. It is about a (presumably) homeless man on the streets of Chicago who feels apart from society, even more now than usual given the Christmas feeling in the air ("shut off as completely as though he were a creature of another species"). I couldn't help but be reminded of a homeless man I met a few days ago when I was out Christmas shopping. It was minus 40 and he didn't have a meal or a home and I was buying stocking stuffers. What a gross feeling.

But I've always liked the Christmas story for the message of hope, and so if Seymour is up to the task of creating a happy ending or at least the hope of one, I was okay with a Christmas story that began depressingly. There's also, however, the risk of getting too carried away with it and winding up schmaltzy. Some might argue that it was a risk that Seymour lost with her ending (the homeless burglar winds up reuniting with his mother while accidentally and coincidentally attempting to rob her home). True, it's a bit out there in terms of plausibility, but real-life coincidences can happen— and can make for interesting stories that people struggle to believe. I also think Seymour did consider that readers might think it all a bit much, and tried to tamper it a bit with the burglar's father not being as warm as the mother. I'm inclined to say that it wasn't too schmaltzy, but I'm not sure everyone would agree.


(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments.)

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