McGinley's Suburban Values

© 2010, Shaun Ono, Jessica Anderson, Mary Sands, Marshall Jeske

The empowered female role model of Dame Goodwit is a reflection of the author, Phyllis McGinley and her values. McGinley, who wrote The Plain Princess while living in the suburbs of Larchmont, New York, was a firm believer in the suburban way of life. While most artwork of McGinley's era condemned suburbia as oppressive prisons, McGinley's writings glorified these areas. Her poetry is infused with references to the suburbs and the pleasures of her role as a housewife (Bellafante). A perfect example is in her prefatory essay to the poetry collection, "A Short Walk from the Station". She argues, " To condemn Suburbia has long been a literary cliche... But for the best eleven years of my life I have lived in Suburbia and I like it." (Panetta 377).

Like the vast majority of her writing, The Plain Princess is greatly influenced by McGinley's belief in Suburban values. In the story, Esmeralda is thrust from her royal life into a suburban setting. The socialization of the princess within her new environment has a "magical" effect on her, and rids her of her negative qualities. The transformation occurs when she becomes an independent female, both in knowledge and utility. This coincides with McGinley's view that a woman's role is not limited by suburbia but in fact is enhanced by it. While she admits that at times the day-to-day life be monotonous, McGinley maintains that her suburban lifestyle is both fulfilling and liberating.