Thursday, September 29, 2016

Character Sketch: Edward Travilla

Using Allan Leech's Tom Branson for my inspiration of Edward Travilla.
     If you are unfamiliar with Edward Travilla, then here's a basic summery. 

     Edward Travilla is the husband of the beautiful and devout Christian heroine, Elsie Dinsmore, in The Elsie Dinsmore book series written by Martha Finley in the late 1860s. The Elsie Dinsmore books were the most popular children's books for decades, especially amongst Christian readers. In the early 2000s there was a revival in the series, when A Life of Faith took the original twenty-eight novels and condensed them into eight updated novels. 

      Edward Travilla can be placed into two categories. He is either the irresistible and noble Christian hero of the 19th century antebellum south; or a controversial fictional character whose crime was being twenty years older than his wife as well being as her father's best friend. However one may sum up Edward Travilla, he was written to be a man devoted to God, his family and the people around him, and a hero that can easily stand next to Mr. Darcy and Matthew Crawley.

     Yet, to understand Edward, you must first understand his beloved Elsie. For years, Elsie Dinsmore has been hated by both Christian and secular audiences alike because of her moral minded Christian beliefs, her inability to stand up for herself (as a child at least), and her sappy, crybaby nature. While Elsie may seem too good to be true at first, people can be a little more understanding of her dire circumstances of living with a family that hates her for her wealth and beauty, a completely incompetent father who mistreats her in the beginning and how her faith in God is her only sanity. 

     Also, most audiences view Elsie from a modern day POV and should realize that Elsie is at the mercy of the people who despise her. She has no choice but to submit to the cruelty of her family and at the times she does stand up for herself, she's is punished. Elsie is forever caught between a rock and a hard place no matter her situation, so a little mercy to this kid isn't too much of a hardship. 

      So, now we can finally get to Edward! Edward is the best friend of Horace Dinsmore and meets Horace's daughter Elsie when she is eight years old. Afterwards, Edward becomes a loving older brother figure to Elsie and overtime, falls in love with her, in spite of their twenty year age gap.* While people nowadays consider this the nature of a pedophile, then I would ask, how is Edward's relationship with Elsie any different from George Knightley's relationship with Emma Woodhouse in Jane Austen's novel "Emma"? Sixteen years age difference, good friends with her father and always looking out for her? There is really no difference at all between the two men. 

     Like Knightley, Edward is handsome, wealthy and well respected. Edward's father died when he was young and he has no brothers and sisters. So, he understands loss and loneliness from an early age and can identify with Elsie on that matter. While Edward tends to mind his own business, he is not above calling out his best friend on his mistreatment of his daughter in the first couple of books. Edward is the only person in the stories not afraid to stand up to Horace and tell him the hard truth about the heartless monster he tended to be.

     Edward never sets off to be the romantic hero, that's just who he is. As a Christian he believes in the responsibility of standing for those who cannot stand up for themselves and respecting human dignity.** On many occasions, Edward is forever coming to Elsie's rescue when she is being hurt, abused or manipulated. I know I can't be the only reader who has reread the chapter "A Friend To The Rescue" from book three, Elsie's New Life, over and over again, because Edward finally did to Elsie's uncle what no one else in the story has had the guts to do. Edward then proceeds to rescue Elsie from running away with a conman and saves her reputation (how very Mr. Darcy of him). And while Elsie is under Edward's influence, she grows and blossoms in confidence, strength and faith.

    While Edward Travilla may seem an obscure character to many modern readers, for the small Elsie Dinsmore fanbase (that are brave enough to admit that they enjoy the books), Edward is a picture of a good Christian man that like Elsie herself, may seem to perfect to be real, but still gives a decent picture of the character qualities we should strive to live for and should also strive to see in others.

* Probably one of the reason why the books haven't been made into films yet.

** Of course, this comes into questioning because Edward is a plantation owner and, until the Civil War, owned many slaves, but that was also staying true to history and Edward is described as being a very generous and kind master.

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