Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The enchanted doll of the title is not the doll that the narrator first encounters in Abe Sheftel’s store window but Essie Nolan herself. Essie is enchanted in the sense that she is under the spell of her cousin Rose Callamit. However, there is no mystery or magic in Rose’s methods. By constantly harping on the fact that Essie is lame and by insisting that no man will ever love Essie, Rose cripples the young woman psychologically so that she is too embarrassed to leave the apartment. Starved for human contact, Essie begins to create the hauntingly lifelike dolls, which, as the narrator eventually discovers, become Essie’s substitute children.

However, Essie is not allowed to mother her “children.” Quick to recognize the commercial value of the dolls, Rose sells them as fast as Essie can make them, symbolically killing Essie’s offspring. The cycle of giving but never receiving love and affection eventually causes Essie to give up any interest in life. At the last moment, this spell, Rose’s hold over Essie, is broken by Amony. Just as the handsome Prince kisses Sleeping Beauty and brings her back to life, Amony falls in love with Essie and gives her back her will to live.

The theme, then, as explicitly stated in the story, is that all human beings need love. If deprived of love, the soul will eventually wither and die. Given love, body and soul will regenerate.