Last Updated on August 20, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 572
Photographs, portraits by inept painters who meant earnestly to flatter, and the festival garments folded away in dried herbs and camphor were disappointing when the little girls tried to fit them to the living beings created in their minds by the breathing words of their elders.
When Maria and Miranda are growing up, they hear the legends about their family that their father tells. His stories are contrary to fact; for example, he speaks about how all the women in the family are thin as reeds, though there are some women in the family who do not match this description. The girls are surrounded by old photographs and portraits and clothing hidden away in camphor. However, these relics of the past do not support the memories that people have of the past. The girls find these relics disappointing, and they are brought up with the idea that people's memories don't quite match reality.
Cousin Eva, on a certain visit, trying to interest them in the study of Latin, told them the story of John Wilkes Booth, who, handsomely garbed in a long black cloak, had leaped to the stage after assassinating President Lincoln. "Sic semper tyrannis," he had shouted superbly, in spite of his broken leg. The little girls never doubted that it had happened in just that way, and the moral seemed to be that one should always have Latin, or at least a good classical poetry quotation, to depend upon in great or desperate moments.
Maria and Miranda are brought up with romantic notions of the past, especially of the South. They are taught to revere the heroes of the Confederacy and to believe in plaster saints. Over time, they find out that what they were taught to believe in was false and not worthy of admiration. The story of John Wilkes Booth is just a romantic story of a hero who is not really heroic and a man whose life ends in tragedy, as do the stories of their ancestors whom they are brought up to worship.
"She had a lovely complexion," said Cousin Eva, "perfectly transparent with a flush on each cheekbone. But it was tuberculosis, and is disease beautiful? And she brought it on...
(The entire section contains 572 words.)
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