Spoiled Children of Divorce

Maisie v. Heidi

On my reading list, probably for the year 2020 seeing how much I look forward to trying to read it, is the book What Maisie Knew by Henry James.  It seems to be the only established literary work out there about a kid growing up in Divorce in Victorian times, maybe Edwardian, whatever.  I’ve been following a couple of psych/neurologist types and they seem to love Henry James for his profound insights into Human Nature.  I had to read, or try to read, a couple of his stories for a class once and nobody understood the guy’s writing.  The sentences were so long and ponderous I never caught on to anything in the story.  Besides, I was too young to understand the psychology.

I know that the Psychology Profession has pretty much set the world backward in understanding human behavior as compared to most 19th Century novels.  I used to know a brilliant guy who had read all of Balzac’s 100 novels when he 10!  He said they were sort of a catalog of human personalities.  Then along comes Freud who convinces a whole Century worth of otherwise Liberal Arts majors that they too can ponder the depths of the human soul by obtaining Phds.

Onwards, from what I’ve read superficially on the Web, What Maisie Knew is about loss of innocence.  Maisie’s parents are self-absorbed Society people who I assume use her to get at each other, etc. and then resent her presence otherwise .  The Victorians were known for doing this to their kids.  People these days would never do that.  We have drug em.  Maisie’s care gets passed from adult to adult and she learns all about selfish human motives through them.  She eventually chooses to live with an old maid who has almost no redeeming qualities in a social way just so that she can gain some peace of mind. I’m probably telling a completely wrong story at this point because I’ve never read it in the first place.  So, apparently the book is a negative expose about growing up in Divorce, at least that’s the metaphor used.

Parents won’t ever in a million years attempt to read it no matter what.  Maybe Marvel comics will make a version so I can read it.

The reason why I’m impatient to mention Maisie now is because I had a different conversation where somebody mentioned the Heidi story.  No.  Not Heidi of the Grand Canyon, although she was a beast of burden and that seems to fit into our description of Kids from divorce here just fine.  We’re discussing Heidi of the Swiss Alps.  Heidi’s story is that she was a poor orphan child with no place to go so she was sent to live with a grumpy old Uncle.  With her exceptional powers of childlike innocence she softened his crust and transformed him into a nice guy.

So there you go.  Only innocent children need apply.  How many stories like this are out there?  Millions?  Innocent children who soften the adults around them, cure old age, cure criminal behaviors, whatever ails the needy adult these super powers can fix with their simplicity and stupidity.  These are the children that the stepparents think they are going to benefit through.  Anything less than Shirley Temple in a kid is represhensible. Heidi did not however have to negotiate between warring sets of people who demanded her full on attention in short spurts and gave nothing back in return.  She had a sweet one on one relationship, a whole lot of time, no Ritalin or Prozac, and a whole herd of goats to work her magic through.  She could really develop a deep relationship with this guy.  Kids can’t work their magic while on a tight schedule of visits.  Time goes slowly for them so they can probably accomplish a lot more than adults can in this regard, but they’re trying to fix two sets. Innocence just doesn’t stick around for that.

2 Comments so far
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I haven’t read “What Maisie Knew,” or any James for that matter, but there’s a great section in Kitty Burns Florey’s “Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog” in which she diagrams some sentences from Henry James. The diagrams fill, like, double-page spreads. While endlessly, incomprehensibly complicated, the sentences are hilariously grammatically correct.

Comment by ramblingwhatever

Lol! Thanks rw, I feel slightly less stupid. I can see now why the neurologists like James so much.
But I think it was “Bridey” of the Grand Canyon, not “Heidi” so I flubbed on that one. Was there a mule named Heidi? It will forever remain a mystery I guess.

Comment by toothless

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