This week as we approach Valentine’s day, we are all thinking of love. Being understood is a piece of the package called love, that we all crave. We all want to be understood and loved for who we are.
The problem is… we want to be understood, but we don’t want to understand others. We don’t allow people to share their feelings before we are interrupting, and giving our own opinions, without listening to their entire story.
Today, I want to share a sweet book, written in 1916, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.
Ms. Fisher wrote the book, Understood Betsy, from what I believe would be called an omniscient point of view in writer’s circles, today. When the book opens, the heroine, Elizabeth Ann (Betsy) is nine years old and living “with her Great-aunt Harriet in a medium-sized city in a medium-sized State in the middle of this country.” The author concludes that statement with, “and that’s all you need to know about the place, for it’s not the important thing in the story…”. (page 7)
The book is very humorous as it give descriptions of the supporting characters who live in the house with Betsy. One resident is a “girl” named Grace who has asthma and who “wasn’t very much of a ‘girl’ at all, being nearer fifty than forty. Aunt Harriet, who was very tender-hearted, kept her chiefly because she couldn’t get any other place on account of her coughing so you could hear her all over the house.” (page 7)
Aunt Harriet and her daughter, Frances, took Betsy in when she was orphaned as a baby. Their goal was to save her from the “Putney cousins” described as “stiff-necked, cold-hearted, undemonstrative, and hard set of New Englanders” who lived on a farm in Vermont. (page 8)
Because of all the doting, spoiling, analyzing of Betsy’s childhood dreams, and making her the center of their lives, Betsy was never allowed to develop normally.
The over-care of Aunt Frances, Aunt Harriet, and Grace, left Betsy in a state of being, “thin and pale and nervous” just like the other three women in the house.
Circumstances change in the household, and Betsy ends of being sent to live with the dreaded Putney cousins. That is when Betsy begins to be understood and to understand. The unfolding of the story is written so craftily, the author allows the reader to see much of the changes taking place in Betsy’s reality through little innuendos that spark the imagination and paint sweet pictures.
It seems that Betsy is not the only one in need of being understood. By the end of the book the Putney’s are understood, as well as the aunts.
It is historical fiction that can be enjoyed by any generation. It would be a great chapter book to read to younger children and older children would learn very valuable life lessons from reading it for themselves. My daughter loves the book, I love the book, and I recently sent a copy of this book to my mother, along with The Secret Garden, to give her reading material during this time when she can’t get out to the library. I asked her which book she liked the most, and Understood Betsy won hands down.
This is a great book to read during this time period. We are all struggling to find love in an angry world and are being judged whether we are white, black, brown, or any color in between. Maybe we can take a clue from literature, set back, observe, and realize we are all the same with our emotions, basic needs, and the need for love and acceptance, no matter what color we are.
We, like Betsy, do not need to be held back by others from being what God made us to be. Betsy actually began to enjoy taking care of herself in the small things like “doing her own hair”. If we allow others the freedom of taking care of themselves, instead of being stunted in their growth by telling them all the things they are not capable of doing on their own, it will help them mature, see truth, and rely on God instead of man, for each day.
Read this book to find out hope, fun, love, and acceptance can be possible; if we try to make sense of what is true, speak out when needed, and quietly observe when no words are necessary.
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7 KJV
***My daughter informed me today that this book is now in the public domain so you can read it free online.
I think every homeschool mom ought to read this book every year as they teach students with varying skill levels. I frequently reread the part where they’re trying to place her in the right grade level at the rural school to remind me what real education is.
That is a good reason to read the book for sure. It is a great book for homeschooling moms. I love the life lessons it teaches, whether we are dealing with children or adults. There’s always so much to learn. I’m thankful for writers like Ms. Fisher who have been gifted with the ability to teach us through words.