Riddle me this: What is everywhere in your room but doesn’t clutter up any space?
Dust is actually very important, as far as books go. They can set a scene, they can create a mood, they can be an important plot element. So before you go off and clean your room or procrastinate about cleaning your room, you might just want to read through this list about our top 8 books that feature dust as an important element in the story.
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Before we get dark, let’s start with a happy children’s book. Starting in 1963, Amelia Bedelia stars, well, Amelia Bedelia, which started this hit children’s series. Funny, brilliant, this stories often follow Amelia Bedelia, a maid in the Rodgers family, who often misunderstands various commands of her employer by always taking figures of speech and various terminology literally.
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Notably, she takes the command “dust the furniture” literally and, well, mayhem ensures.
Lucky, after a series of comic misunderstanding and general mayhem, Amelia Bedelia is usually able to the win the family over with a delicious pie or cake. After a while the Rodgers family becomes astute enough to realize that Amelia Bedelia takes everything they say literally so, instead of firing her, they give her more specific commands such as “undust the furniture”.
So remember: You shouldn’t ‘dust around the house’, you should ‘undust the house’. Or you can dust the house. I don’t care, you do you.
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With that out of the way, let’s get dark. Dust can set a scene, set a mood, and you know that things are dark when this story opens with a little girl dusting the house while her step-mother and step-sisters are lounge around the house.
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Since her father’s death, Cinderella’s has been left in the dust, left in the squalor of her step-mother’s tyrannical rule. We all know where the story goes from here, either from the Disney movie or Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with her rising from the dust and into the arms of someone who loves her.
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Before the monsters of movies, Infinity War and Endgame, hit theaters, comic readers knew since 1991 that there was a chance our favorite heroes might get dusted. Though we weren’t sure if Disney was going to go through with it, we sat back in awe as our favorite characters, including Spider-Man, bit the dust.
If you want to see where this plot point came from, we’ll buy this comic and listen to Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” as you see characters you know and love and characters you don’t know but will love get dusted. Be warned:
It’s some heavy stuff.
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Published in 1986, Howl’s Moving Castle is a fantasy novel by British author Diana Wynne Jones. A runner-up for the annual Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, the book was adapted into in 2004 was adapted as an animated film of the same name in 2004 and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Young and Old Sophie Hatter / Image Via Fairlight Books
The importance of dust cannot be understated. After her father dies, Sophie Hatter takes over her family’s hat shop but encounters some trouble when she meets a witch who believes Sophie is doing some magic in her territory. In the book Sophie’s guilty as charged, so the witch curses her into looking like an old woman.
She runs away and, cold alone, sneaks on board a moving castle. But she’s found out!
This is when dust comes into play. See, Sophie’s cover story is that, since the castle is old and dusty, she’s the new house keeper! A quick look around and everyone is satisfied with her story, and Sophie ends up actually cleaning the castle.
The story goes on from here, but the most important moral of the story is this: Dust is helpful.
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Published in 2009, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help is about African Americans working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s.
A story about oppression, prejudiced, and hope, this story utilized dust to symbolize the hardships people go through and the impossibilities in cleaning away hatred.
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You might know the film, the play, or Victor Hugo’s magnum opus, this story shines a lighter on the misery and the pain of poverty and finding redemption in a cruel world. From the grimy streets of Paris to the dirt of the taverns, this story is known best for this image:
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There’s a reason for that. A young girl cursed to poverty, to survive and not thrive in a dirty world, she’ll have to work hard and, with a little luck, she might be given a new start and a clean slate.
Three orphans cleaning with toothbrushes because life sucks and then you die / Image Via Fast Company
In this series the Baudelaire orphans can’t catch a break. While they are bounced around to guardian after guardian, they are met with increasingly dire circumstances and squalor beyond repair. From a greedy man who just wants them for this vast fortune to a man engulfed in smoke who keeps them (including the baby!) working in a lumber mill, the orphans are no stranger to dust, grime, filth, and dusty things.
Thankfully, they never seem to catch a case of the sniffles, so I guess they’re lucky in that regard.
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Darkly funny and disturbingly horrific, this series is certainly something that’ll make you thankful because, even though dust seems to follow you everywhere you go, at least you’re not being chased by a villain.
If you are in fact being chased by an evil villain, considering calling 9-1-1.
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Does dust follow you everywhere you go? Well, that might be a good thing. In the His Dark Materials trilogy, dust are elementary particles associated with consciousness and are integral to the plot. Everyone is chasing dust.
In the first book, young Lyra is bombarded with adults who claim that dust is evil, a terrible particle that causes all the misery in the world. Even her father, Lord Asriel, tells her that
Somewhere out there is the origin of all the Dust, all the death, the sin, the misery, the destructiveness in the world. Human beings can’t see anything without wanting to destroy it, Lyra. That’s original sin. And I’m going to destroy it. Death is going to die.
In the first book, Lyra believes this wholeheartedly, but at the end of the novel her eyes are opened up to the wonders of dust when her daemon, Pantalaimon, asks her:
We’ve heard them all talk about Dust, and they’re so afraid of it, and you know what? We believed them, even though we could see what they were doing was wicked and evil and wrong…We thought Dust must be bad too, because they were grown up and they said so. But what if it isn’t?
From there, Lyra realizes:
If Dust were a good thing…If it were to be sought and welcomes and cherished..
‘We could look for it too, Pan!’ she said
The moral of the story? Don’t dust your house, because dust is magical.
Featured Image Via RZIM