The Porcelain Prisoners

A haunting combination of dual imagery : innocent fragilty twinned with utter devastation………Beautiful survivors – Introducing The Dresden Dolls.

Dolls are a constant theme within the Dollanganger Saga, even their imagery is described in such terms :

They were a fairytale family with blue eyes and blonde hair , like the delicate, fragile china dolls of Dresden, Germany famed for their uncommon beauty and sweet smiles so called by their neighbours in Gladstone for this reason and  for their germanic surname Dollanganger. 

But the fairytale soon develops nightmarish proportions.

“Daddy’s best friend pinned on us the nickname ‘the dresden doll’. He said we looked like those fancy people who grace whatnot shelves and fireplaces”
Cathy – Flowers in the Attic

Like their china counterparts, highly collectible,  which at the time of the story – 1957-had become discontinued and by the books publishing date of 1979 a rare collectors item,they find themselves added to their own grandfather’s collection when their desperate mother seeks help after the death of their father.

” you see, my father is a “collector”. He buys everything that is considered a unique work of art – not because he appreciates art, but he likes to own things. He would like to own everything if possible, especially beautiful things. I used to think I was part of his collection of objects d’art . .  and he meant to keep me for himself, not to enjoy, but to keep others enjoying what was his”
Corrine – Flowers in the Attic

Little did Jim Johnston , their fathers best friend , realise how symbolic the name Dresden doll was in regards to the Dollangangers, nor how the echoes of Dresden s own traumatic past would predict the future of Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie ………..

Like a chapter of Dresdens porcelain history, those dolls too would become Porcelain Prisoners:


The porcelain prisoner : 1700-1714
The origin of Meissen porcelain manufactured down the river from Dresden  is a famously macabre incident in industrial history.
In 1700 the young 18-year-old Johann  Böttger is arrested and brought to Dresden by order of Augustus the Strong. Although guilty of no crime,  Augustus has heard that the young man is an alchemist hoping to manufacture gold from base materials. If gold is to be made, Augustus wants it and he ll do anything to get it. …..  …..

Sound familiar ?
Reminiscent of Corrines own quest, she keeps her own dolls hidden carefully away in her fathers house until the inheritance arrives – her children are kept captive by the greed of others. Her greed.

Corrine, once again daughter of the house , reverts to almost childlike behaviour and the children become her own secret dolls.
With her parents telling her she needs to hide them away in order to be ‘rewarded’,  and them ‘punished’ for being alive its almost like they are trying to severe her attachment to her own children and theirs to her.

They begin to question her loyalty.

Like Johann, they are prisoners of hope, his hope that someday soon he will discover the secret of making gold that never appears.

Like the grandfather who never dies
the inheritance that never appears…
And a freedom that never materialises….


The Dollhouse given to Carrie was originally enclosed in glass. It represented a prison and that the children were prisoners of that house as well. Forever trapped.
Like living dolls , the dollanganger children were trapped, wanting out. To live and be free.

Over time , keeping the dolls prisoner was not enough for sick Malcolm Foxworth, gradually the destruction of the children , emotionally, spiritually and finally psychically began taking place by those they trusted and loved.


The Dresden Dolls were thought of by Malcolm and Corrine as something not real, something not made of flesh and blood, that could be manipulated, destroyed and thrown away. A Plaything to the Gods and their manipulation of fate.
For what matters the death of a doll? To be stored in an attic and forgotten…. or even better destroyed….


Much like the attempt by Allied forces to obliterate the city of Dresden and its doll factory in 1944.

Over 90% of the city was destroyed….. and the doll factories burnt beyond repair.

However, incredibly, some dolls did survive this brutal attempt.

Considering this history , its very apt that Virginia who herself had German ancestry would use the term Dresden Dolls when describing the Dollanganger children-  innocent fragilty twinned with utter devastation.The symbolism serves a dual purpose.

Where was that fragile, golden-fair Dresden doll I used to be? Gone.
Gone like porcelain turned into steel-made into someone who would
always get what she wanted, no matter who or what stood in her way.

Cathy – Flowers in the Attic

The Dollanganger saga is the story of survival. Despite all odds, that beneath the delicate fragility lies resilient dolls who like their Dresden counterparts , survived.


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