(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Although the setting of “The Enchanted Doll” is a poor neighborhood in New York City’s Lower East Side, the plot has many of the elements of a fairy tale: a handsome young doctor, a beautiful but helpless young woman, and an ugly old harridan. The tale begins when the narrator, Dr. Samuel Amony, sets out to buy a birthday present for his little niece in Cleveland. With a hurdy-gurdy playing “Some Enchanted Evening” in the background, Amony drops by Abe Sheftel’s combination stationery, cigar, and toy shop. When the doctor sees a twelve-inch, handmade rag doll with a painted face, he reports that he feels an affinity with the doll as one might feel with “a stranger in a crowded room.” The doll seems lifelike, mysterious, and feminine all at once. When quizzed, Sheftel replies that the doll was created by some red-haired amazon who lives nearby. Sheftel cannot quite recall her name, but he thinks that “Calamity” is close.

Coincidentally, Amony gets to meet the redheaded woman when she summons him to her apartment to make a house call. Her name is actually Rose Callamit, not Calamity, but the latter seems more appropriate. Amony reports that her voice is unpleasant, her hair is dyed, her makeup is overdone, and her perfume is both overpowering and cheap. He is offended to think that this vulgar woman is the creator of the charming doll that he sent to his niece. Her sitting room is cluttered with dolls, each of which is different but stamped with the same creative genius as the one that Amony first saw in Sheftel’s window.

Finally, Rose leads the doctor through a connecting bath into a small back room, where her cousin, Essie Nolan, sits listlessly in her chair. In the best tradition of the fairy tale, Rose illustrates her cruelty by...

(The entire section is 725 words.)