A Little Princess
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Poor Becky. Sara gets to inherit diamond mines, while Becky gets to … be her servant. What's up with that?
About all we know about Becky is that she's "fourteen years old, but was so stunted in growth that she looked about twelve" (5.25). What does Becky like to do? How did she end up as a scullery maid? Does she have any hopes, or dreams, or ambitions?
We have no clue. And to be honest, we think this is one of the book's major problems: Becky's whole purpose is to serve as a way for Sara to show how nice she is.
"Okay, Shmoop," you say. "But isn't that also true of Ermengarde? And Lottie?"
Yeah, it's totally true of them, too. The difference is that Sara gets to triumph over adversity to become basically a real-life princess—while Becky gets to be her maid. Becky may be the "prisoner in the next cell" (9.80-81), but their lives are very different once they escape the attic jail.
Sara claims that it's only an "accident" that Becky is poor and Sara is rich. But are they really the same? Let's take a look at how Becky talks:
"Yes miss, you are," she cried, and her words were all broken. "Whats'ever 'happens to you—whats'ever—you'd be a princess all the time—an' nothing couldn't make you nothin' different." (7.206)
"An' nothing couldn't make you nothin' different." Does that sound like something a princess would say? No, of course not. And in the world of A Little Princess, money can come and go—but class is with you forever. Becky could never be a princess, because she can't talk like a princess. She isn't the same as Sara, and she never will be.
To be fair, this is just the way things were for most people when the book was written. Social class was just as important as race is in 21st century America: to a large extent, it determines what your life is like and how people see you. And Becky will always be a servant.