Monday, April 26, 2010

Reading Gallico's "Enchanted Doll" story, Part 2 (No Spoilers)

Fear not, Gallico's story of the Enchanted Doll is a very nice little tale and I won't spoil it for anybody who wants to read it through themselves--no spoilers. But for those who despair of ever getting their hands on the book it's published in, I shall share some of the yummy parts...

The setting is New York City, in the early part of the last century. There are many poor people--everyone in the story is poor. The narrator/hero is Samuel Amony, M.D., a doctor (so romantic!) who is not at all wealthy because his practice is among the poor. He charges $1 per visit, but for people who are really ill and cannot afford to pay, he charges nothing. His office is near Third Avenue and Fifteenth Street and so are the other locations the story carries him to.

[If you are a lover of  New York, as I am, and want to know, as I did, just what part of it Third and Fifteenth is, then this information is for us: it's kind of in-between areas, but is closest to Union Square. Here is a picture of Union Square in 1936. The statue is of the Marquis de LaFayette, who has been gazing at the neighborhood since 1876.]

This doctor sees a remarkable doll in, of all places, a dusty stationery, cigar, and toy shop. Idly looking over the few toys in the shop window, "all a-jumble with boxes of withered cigars, cartons of cigarettes, bottles of ink, pens, pencils, gritty stationery, and garish cardboard cut-out advertisements for soft drinks," for something he could send to his young niece, he sees, in the shadows, a rag doll "with the strangest, tenderest, most alluring and winsome expression on her face."
I could not wholly make her out, due to the shadows and the film through which I was looking, but I was aware that a tremendous impression had been made upon me, that somehow a contact had been established between her and myself, almost as though she had called to me...

...Nevertheless he took her from the window and placed her in my hands and here it was that I received my second shock, for she had the most amazing and wonderful quality. No more than a foot long, she was as supple and live to the touch as though there were flesh and bones beneath the clothes instead of rag stuffing.

It was indeed, as Abe had said, hand-made, and its creator had endowed it with such lifelike features and grace that it gave one the curious feeling of an alter presence. Yet there was even more than that to her. Could a doll be said to have sex appeal in the length and proportions of her legs, the shape of her head, the swirl of her skirt over her hips? Was it possible for an emotion to have been sewn into the seams marking the contours of the tiny figure? For though I am young, I have seen too much, both in peace and war, to be either sentimental or subject to hallucination. Yet to hold this doll was to feel a contact with something warm, mysterious, feminine, and wonderful. I felt that if I did not put her down I would become moved by her in some unbearable fashion.

Dr. Amony pays $14 for her, far more than he can afford, because he can't leave her lying there on the counter "for she was a creation, and something, some part of the human soul, and gone into the making of her."

The rest of the story concerns the mystery of who this dollmaker is, and what her life is like, and why she makes them. Gallico said he wasn't entirely happy with the ending of the story--but I am! :-)


monika viktoria said...

Ah, so it's a bit of a longer story! I had the impression it was a short children's tale.

I read a synopsis online, so I have already had the story, beginning to end spoiled... though very briefly. The whole thing was but a paragraph long.

thanks for the insert... it sounds amazing!!

Astera said...

...ouch, I a hooked: now I'll have to desperately look for a copy of the book!

Anonymous said...

Can anyone suggest sites for me to read the whole story?Read this when I'm 12 years I'm 34..really miss this story.

Classics Revisited said...

Anonymous, I've never found the story anywhere online, though I certainly tried. The only place I've found it is in the original collection, "Further Confessions of a Story Teller" by Paul Gallico. If your local library doesn't own it, ask a librarian if they can get it for you through Interlibrary Loan or a state-wide lending system. Or if there's a university near you, their library should have it. It's short enough you can read it in one sitting, if they won't let you check it out. Good luck!