Alice Cholmondeley’s author’s note to Christine prefaces what Cholmondeley says are letters written to her by her daughter, Christine, who was studying in Germany the summer World War I began.
A note saying the publisher chose to alter names of some individuals reinforces the idea that the letters are true.
Christine by Alice Cholmondeley¹
©1917. 1917 bestseller #6. Project Gutenberg eBook #12683. My grade: C .
In fact, Christine is a work not merely of fiction, but fabricated propaganda.
The letters’ details provide the proof.
Christine tells her mother a host of “facts” that a parent would have known without telling: the family is poor, Christine is to be away only one year, that no one else in the family has a talent for violin.
Cholmondeley is very good at detail, which gives the story a sense of “this happened.”
The text is strewn with German terms that monolingual American readers will need to look up.
Cholmondeley goes to great lengths to show the Germans as a nation are cruel, brutal, greedy, power-hungry, that they wanted war because war fit in with their philosophy and ambitions.
The value of Christine for today’s readers is less about its story — which is slender — than about its rhetorical strategy. As a study in persuasion, it’s well worth careful examination.
Techniques that Cholmondeley uses against the Germans might be used today against Muslims or Methodists.
¹Alice Cholmondeley is a pen name of Elizabeth von Arnim, born Mary Annette Beauchamp, an Australian-born British novelist. By her first marriage she became Gräfin von Arnim-Schlagenthin, and by a second marriage, Countess Russell.
©2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni