Tell about the characters of the book A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. How are they related to the main character?  

Expert Answers
teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main character, Sara Crewe, the "little princess," begins as the wealthiest and most pampered student in Miss Minchin's London boarding school. Sara's mother is dead and then her father dies after having invested all his and his partner's money in diamond mines that apparently go broke. Having just paid for a lavish birthday party for Sara, and having other unpaid bills for her on her hands, Miss Minchin is upset to find out that her richest student is now an impoverished orphan. She goes overnight from catering to her pupil to using her harshly as a servant, forcing her to live an unheated attic room and feeding her so little that she is often hungry. Over time, Sara begins to outgrow what fine clothes she has left, which grow old and tattered.

Miss Minchin is hardly a kind person, but she has had to fend for herself in a harsh world and has a business to run. While there is calculation in her keeping on Sara, who can help tutor other students, Miss Minchin also could have put Sara on the streets or sent her to an orphanage. On the other hand, Miss Minchin is hardly by any definition the milk of human kindness. 

Two other characters are Mr. Carrisford and his assistant, the Indian man, Ram Dass. Mr. Dass discovers how poor Sara is when he and Mr. Carrisford move next door and Mr. Dass's monkey runs into Sara's attic. As it happens, Mr. Carrisford was Sara's father's business partner and has been looking for Sara. Now, the diamond mines are booming, and Sara is once again rich. However, even though Mr. Carrisford and Ram don't know who Sara is, thinking she is just a random girl treated cruelly, they tend to her with compassion. She comes home to find fires blazing in her cold garrett fireplace, a warm blanket for her bed, new clothes and food to eat. 

Another character is the servant Becky at Miss Minchin's, who is a friend after Sara's fall from grace.

We learn about characters from how they relate to Sara. Miss Minchin shows her hard heart and lack of compassion (though, again, she also is alone in a world that will grind up people without money and leave them on the streets). Mr. Carrisford and Ran Dass show their innate human decency in how they treat the down and out girl. 

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Minchin is a dominant character - she is ruthless and calculating, probably because she is insecure herself,relying on the school for her livelihood. She shows little understanding of children or child development, choosing to blame Sara for her family's misfortunes. She keeps Sara on in the school but never lets her forget she is now a second-rate citizen and beholden.

Lavinia is related to Sara's character through association as fellow pupil, not friend.She resents Sara and the attention she gets and is bitter,jealous and envious.

Becky relates to Sara through shared misfortune. To begin with Sara was the superior of a servant whose family was dependent on her menial work in the school. Sara gets to know her more on an equal footing through her own demotion.

Maybe Frances Hodgson Burnett was better able to put herself in Becky shoes because of her own upbringing in a rich part of a poor neighborhood:

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question