Dawn Shows Work Is Necessary to Happiness

After hitting the sales charts with Pollyanna in 1913 and Pollyanna Grows Up in 1915, Eleanor H. Porter repeated her feat in 1919 with Dawn, a novel that’s better than either of them.

As the story opens, young Dan Burton learns the man who mends toys for neighborhood kids has gone blind. Dan immediately decides his blurred vision means he’s going blind, too.

It turns out Dan is right.

He undergoes several operations, none successful.

Boys Dan’s age are being sent to the trenches of France. Dan’s father seeks to avoid seeing anything that’s unpleasant, including the son who can’t go to war.

Susan, the Burton’s maid-of-all-work forces Dan to accept his blindness as a challenge. When the wounded start being sent home, Dan finds he can be useful to others who have lost their sight, which was often associated with facial disfigurement common in WWI trench warfare.

There’s none of the upbeat sentimentality of the Pollyanna books in Dawn. Dawn‘s characters accept reality or hide from it, but they don’t attempt to sugar coat it.

Dawn is moderately entertaining as a novel, but more intriguing as artifact of an author working to master her craft. Alert readers will see echoes of other novelists’ works — they’re the off-key notes in Porter’s melodies.

Dawn
By Eleanor H. Porter
Illustrations by Lucius Wolcott Hitchcock (not available in digital text)
1919 bestseller #7
Project Gutenberg e-book #5874
My grade: B-

© 2014  Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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