Today’s story comes from Dolly and I, an 1872 volume penned by the improbably-named Oliver Optic.
The star of our tale is a ten-year-old girl named Katy, daughter of a factory agent, and a “pretty good girl”, although we’re told from the get-go that she was a demanding baby and, as she grew older, “she did not like to see others have any thing which she could not have.”
The text of Dolly and I is full of the detailed goings-on of dolls (I imagine this is appealing to the book’s intended audience), but to make a long story short: Katy is gifted a beautiful wax doll, and she doesn’t want to share it with her sweet-tempered sister Nellie, who must make do with numerous broken-ish dolls.
Despite Katy’s meanness, Nellie is still kind to her. As a reward for her kindness and good nature, Nellie herself is gifted a wax doll– and this one has eyes that open and close!!
As I’m sure one can imagine, Katy is 100% furious. How dare Nellie have a blinking doll, when Katy only has a beautiful non-blinking doll? (Mind you, Nellie is so empathetic, she feels guilty about her doll’s niceness and her sister’s anger.)
What does Katy, blinded by her envious rage, do? She stumbles up the dark stairs after dinner one evening, makes her way into her poorly-lit play room, and then:
Golly. The accompanying narrative makes it even creepier:
‘Your dolly shall not be better than mine any longer,’ she said to herself. As she said this, she took the scissors from the work basket on the bureau, and finding one of the eyes with her fingers, she struck one of the points right into it. Then she turned the scissors, so as entirely to destroy the eye. Not content with this, she spoiled the other eye in the same manner.
Sneaking the defiled doll back into her drawer, Katy slinks downstairs and tries to act cool. When dear, sweet Nellie suggests some pre-bedtime doll-playing, Katy demurs, feeling “just as though she should sink through the floor”. Nellie, completely unaware of her sister’s inner turmoil, runs upstairs, grabs her blinking doll, brings it down to the table, and…
…wait for it…
Nellie’s doll IS TOTALLY FINE and HER EYES HAVEN’T BEEN POKED OUT BY A SEWING IMPLEMENT.
Is it magic?
No, it’s the retributive tendency of the otherwise marvelous universe, for in her jealous frenzy, Katy accidentally poked out the eyes of her very own wax doll.
Our story ends with Katy’s mother scolding her, Katy crying herself to sleep, and the non-blinking wax doll being “utterly ruined”. Tell us, Oliver Optic, what’s the moral of this sad, sad tale?
When you envy others, although you may not punch out the eyes of your own doll, you hurt yourself more than any one else.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.