(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“Mary’s Child” has three levels operating in perfect harmony. One is the story surface, the actual events and language; another is symbolic, with parallels in everyone’s life; and the third is the spiritual level, eternity revealed through time.

Mary takes a starving woodcutter’s baby girl to heaven to rear as her own. The infant is given the best of care and has angels for playmates. When the girl is fourteen, Mary goes on a long trip and leaves the keys to thirteen rooms in heaven with the girl, telling her that she may open every door but the thirteenth, which is forbidden. The girl opens a new door every day to find an apostle. On the thirteenth day, devoured by curiosity, she opens the forbidden door and sees the Trinity blazing in fire and glory. She gazes in awe and puts out her finger, which turns to gold. Suddenly, she is seized by panic, closes the door, and rushes to Mary, who knows immediately what has happened. Three times Mary asks the girl if she opened the forbidden door, and three times the girl denies it. Mary has no choice but to send her to earth. It is Original Sin repeated, but it is also the way that adolescence is experienced, as a loss of innocence and being cared for by adults. It marks the beginning of suffering as a constant part of the human makeup and the point at which one must accept the consequences of one’s actions.

The girl is isolated from all human contact in a part of the forest surrounded by thorns. She...

(The entire section is 606 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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