the short story project

A Strange Christmas Game

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A Strange Christmas Game by Charlotte Riddell

The author Charlotte Riddell was among the most prolific writers of Victorian England. Quite a few of her writings were published under male pseudonyms, as with the story brought before us, which was published under the name J.H. Riddell—her husband’s name. In “A Strange Christmas Game,” written in the British tradition of Christmas ghost stories, the hidden talents of the women are easily discernible—while the narrator is a man, he is revealed to be utterly incompetent compared to his independent and vigil sister Clare, who, in fact, solves the mystery. Confronted with the ineptitude and short-sightedness of the powerful male figures in the story, among them the investigating judge and the honorable Mr. Cronson who determines that, “There is nothing more, of course, to be done in the matter,” Clare is revealed as a sensitive and intelligent woman (obviously she is still seized with “hysteria” when witnessing violent sights, in full accordance with the conventions of the genre), who not only opens the eyes of the violent men around her to the truth, but even steers the destiny of her brother, the narrator, by identifying the woman who would eventually become his wife and the mother of his children.