In this article I position the metaphor of the hope chest at the heart of a trilogy
of fairy tale novels, The Complete Tales of Ketzia (2001), The Complete Tales of
Merry (2006a) and The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold (2011), by Kate Bernheimer
that explore traditions of American girlhood. Deploying psychoanalytic interpretative
readings, I investigate the characterization of each of the three sisters.
My use of the hope chest (as both a toy and a cultural repository) enables me to
offer a fuller picture of the social transition depicted in these novels from childhood
into womanhood, and is thus conflated with the idea of the child-woman—
a hinge-like cultural figure whom Bernheimer represents metaphorically through
boxes of accoutrements containing memories and prophecies. With reference to
unpublished interviews with Bernheimer, I support my interpretative reading of
her trilogy by invoking and explaining the relevance of literary theories related
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