Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"The Purple Jar" by Maria Edgeworth

"The Purple Jar"  by Maria Edgeworth (1796, 6 pages)

Day Two
The 18th Century
Maria Edgeworth

As I was putting together the guest list for Irish Short Story week I quickly began to fear women will be in the
distinct minority for the  week.    Normally my two co-hosts, Rory and Camarilla do not agree on much but they were both very vocal in telling me just to keep looking until I found a woman to invite as our next guest.    I  was in complete agreement.    I found a number of 18th and 19th century women authors from Ireland but few short story writers.
"Maria, maybe I could give you some
fashion tips-by the way keep away from

   I was so happy when I discovered Maria Edgeworth (1768 to 1849).   Maria Edgeworth,  Anglo-Irish,  is considered the first author of realistic children's books.    She is also the author of a once very famous and read all over the world short story, "The Purple Jar".    "The Purple Jar" takes on a very daring topic for its day, looking a bit below the surface, a  girl's first period and the educational preparation she receives for it from her mother and her own father's feelings of disgust toward her.

"The Purple Jar" seems a simple tale about consumerism in the 18th century and young girl's lack of foresight. It is actually a strange story with a mysterious  purple jar at the center.   A young girl and  her mother  are out for a stroll.     The girl complains that her shoes are hurting her.    She wants some new shoes but she also spots a purple jar that she wants.   The mother tells her that this month she can afford to buy her either the shoes or the jar but not both.    The girl wants  the jar.     The mother is very critical of her decision but she gives in though she does tell her no new shoes until next month.  Now the story gets strange.    When the girl gets home she finds the jar is not purple but is filled with what she sees as  disgusting dark liquid.    The girl cries out to her mother that she does not want this liquid and  does not understand what it is.    Her mother treats her like a fool.    When her father sees her holding the jar, he cannot hide his distaste and he refuses to be seen in public with her.   The mother advised her, in an ice cold way,  that she would have been willing to loan her daughter a jar if she had asked.   Of course the young girl had idea what was going to happen to her.

"Maria,  let's talk, I can give you
a jar full of gold-and I just for fun ask Carmilla why we
never see her during the day time"-Rory O'Halloran
Her feet begin to hurt her very much in her old shoes.   Her mother harshly tells her she will have to wait until next month to get new shoes.   Her father tells her to be quiet when she cries out because of a stone in her shoe.  

"The Purple Shoe" is for sure a short story.     It is written in a simple but moving fashion.    In its day, it spoke out for the dignity of women and the need for education about women's health issues.   You can easily read it

online here  (along with more of her work)

"The Purple Jar" treats of the rights and dignity  of women in a very simple , way.     I think it is not much read anymore.   I think it should be considered a part of the canon.    I am glad I came upon it.   You can read it in less than five minutes and get a real look at the life of women and young girls in the late 18th century in Ireland.

I hope others might post on stories by female authors from Ireland.   All you have to do join in his to do a post on one Irish author and send me a comment.   At the end of the week I will do a master post  linking it all up.

Tomorrow things may get a bit scary as we meet two masters of the supernatural short story.

Mel u

Online Resources For Irish Short Story Week


Helen said...

I've never read anything by Maria Edgeworth but this story sounds fascinating. I'd definitely like to read it when I have a few minutes.

Here's my post for Irish Short Story Week (Laura Silver Bell by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu)

Anonymous said...

I have this story queued up to read this week, I'll probably read it tomorrow. I'm happy to find more female short story writers from Ireland.

Here is my first post for Irish Short Story Week.

Short Story Slore said...

This must be my week for reading children's short stories. Perfect for my midday reading break at work :)

Anonymous said...

I wrote a post on a couple of Maria Edgeworth short stories here. I'm really enjoying Irish Short Story Week!

Rebecca Reid said...

I haven't read Maria Edgeworth yet, what an odd sounding short story.