Video: E.B. White’s forgotten story about the tyranny of good intentions

"In “The Family that Dwelt Apart” – published in The New Yorker on July 31, 1937 – White tells the story of the Pruitt family, which led an idyllic life of willful isolation in the sleepy New England cove of Barnetuck Bay. One winter, the bay froze and left the Pruitts to live off their supply of preserves, which they were more than content to do.

“The winter would have passed quietly enough had not someone on the mainland remembered that the Pruitts were out there in the frozen bay,” White writes.

The remainder of the tale describes how state officials, acting on an erroneous rumor, harnessed all the power and wisdom of the government to save the family from a non-existent emergency – and the disastrous chain of tragedies that followed."