Furthermore, governments were making education more secular in nature due to the growth of scientific thought (loyno.edu). As a result, Religion was viewed skeptically by many people, particularly educated ones at the time.
The youngest son is skeptical. He sees the problems of the society, but holds himself above them. His unwillingness to engage in life around him causes him to be easy prey for the evil one who does not even have to deceive him; he is fooled by the wind as he waits for it to change. He waits too long and is lost like his brothers.
Only the wise man's daughter is left with him and he has given up hope of understanding life after death. Now, he has only a blind daughter to comfort him. She is the embodiment of the traditional female as the reader sees her connected to a spinning wheel and described as clinging to her father and hoping for "his happiness and peace" (Andersen). She is the ultimate mother figure as she is prepared to sacrifice herself for her brother's return and her father's contentment. Her engagement into the "Cult of Domesticity" that was rising during the 19th century is obvious. The "Cult of Domesticity" saw women as primarily mother figures who were the "guardian(s) of the moral purity of all who lived" in the home (Hartman). Their function was to make the home "a haven of comfort and quiet" (Hartman). The daughter reflects exactly what a woman was supposed to be during Andersen's time. Yet, despite her feminine representation, she is not feeble and wishes to please her father and save her brothers by embarking on the quest as well.
Her ability to be effective should be compromised by her blindness. However, it is her blindness that makes her more successful than her brothers. Blindness of a character is a standard motif in many works of literature. The daughter possesses two of the standard motifs for blindness used in literature. First, she has the gift of "blindness as compensatory or miraculous power" (Jernigan). This is the idea that blindness gives the person special powers in other areas. In the tale, the daughter is said to possess "a gift which all the others lacked. This was a determination to throw herself entirely into whatever she undertook" (Andersen). Her brothers had all been led astray by something; she does not suffer this fate due to her gift.
Her determination and connection to domesticity lead her to plan a way home which her brothers deemed unnecessary. She pulls a very thin thread with her as she embarks into the wide world. She witnesses many of the same things as her brothers did in the outer world; she hears the voices of the good mingled with the voices of the evil. However, she possesses something that they do not. She has a permanent link to her home and the goodness that it represents which she physically carries with the thread and carries internally due to her virtue.
Virtue is another one of the key ways that blindness is used in literature (Jernigan).
Her determination is obviously strong for her to embark on the trip. However, it is her perfect virtue that prevents the evil one's attempt to copy her and confuse her. The evil one fails as she has "full faith." Typical of domestic women, she is supposed to be the balance in life and "steady the uncertainty" of 19th century life (Hartman). She has confidence and faith in the fact that her four leaves will reach her brothers and bring them home which the leaves do. Perfect virtue is also what allows her to succeed where her brothers failed as blindness due to perfect virtue is said to transform the individual "entirely removing the victim from the ordinary dimensions of life and humanity" (Jernigan). She is outside the norm so that she can see the good, the true, and the beautiful in the world.
Every grain of truth which the keen wind carried up and whirled towards me I caught and treasured. I allowed it to be penetrated with the fragrance of the beautiful, of which there is so much in the world, even for the blind. I took the beatings of a heart engaged in a good action, and added them to my treasure. All that I can bring is but dust; still, it is a part of the jewel we seek, and there is plenty, my hand is quite full of it. (Andersen)
It is her very blindness that permits her to see and capture the heart of the philosopher's stone. She knows to have faith, to trust and to believe which is the lesson that she takes home to her father.
When she spreads the dust on her father's book, the single word "Believe" is revealed. The wise man is being told to believe in the qualities of the philosopher's stone. He is to believe in the good, the true, and the beautiful which in the final line of the tale is connected to love. The audience is also being asked to believe in those things. Andersen supplies the example of the daughter to show the audience that these things exist and are very powerful. In this tale Andersen admits that the world of the 19th century has problems, however, he is also stating that faith in people and in the characteristics that humanity is built upon are still present and still important even in a changing and troubled world.
"19th Century Intellectual Currents." 18 July 2006. http://www.loyno.edu/~seduffy/victorianism.html
Andersen, Hans Christian. "The Philosopher's Stone." http://hca.gilead.org.il/21
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Hartman, Dorothy. "Women's Roles in the Late 19th Century." 18 July 2006.
History Online Index. http://www.connerprairie.org/historyonline/1880wom.html
Jernigan, Kenneth. "Blindness: Is Literature Against Us?" 1999. National
Federation of the Blind. 18 July 2006. http://www.blind.net/bpba1974.htm
"Literature of the 19th century." Jahsonic. 2006. Jahsonic.com: a vocabulary of culture. 18 July 2006. http://www.jahsonic.com/1900sLiterature.html
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