Karen's Reviews > Little Women

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
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's review
Feb 21, 2008

it was ok

I honestly do not see in this novel what others see, namely an interesting plot, spunky, inspiring heroines, and quintessential American values.

Allow me to first address my potential critics. The reasons I dislike this novel are many in number and I feel like this book is completely overrated. I also feel like its overindulgent, childlike simplicity is best for an audience of children. To those for whom this was a beloved childhood book, that makes sense. As someone who read it for the first time as a young adult on the tails of books like The Bell Jar, 1984, and East of Eden, this felt comically bland and basic. This is not a vendetta of the overly modern, either, which you might be inclined to think since I mentioned three classic novels from the 20th century. However, I am enamored of many other 19th century and pre-19th century writers. Alcott is simple not one of them. If you would like to disagree, feel free.

Let's start off with the plot. Each chapter kind of reads like its own mini-story, weaving together to form a whole novel. To me, this makes it feel like a series of fables, akin to Aesop. Each chapter has its own set of morals at the end, to which the characters arrive at after some little difficulty and a bit of humbling. If I wanted that, I would read Pilgrim's Progress, Aesop's fables, or a kids' illustrate version of the Bible. I am not interested in being reminded every ten pages that it's okay to be poor because it's what's inside people that matters. Thanks, I got it. Can we move on? Apparently not, because it's a recurring theme every chapter or two.

Moving on to the heroines themselves. Beth is too good to be true and oversimplified, Meg is wildly average and secretly concerned with the shallow things uber-shallow Amy is overtly concerned with, and finally, Jo is spunky and gutsy but ultimately fizzles out into boringness. Jo is admirable because she is unconventional (ooh, she's a writer, ooh, she cuts her hair to earn them extra money), but I find her disappointing. Spoilers. Her steamy almost-romance with Laurie does not go out with a bang, but with a whimper. Somehow, it just kind of ends. And he falls for Amy? What? And Amy goes ahead and marries her sister's obvious life-long crush? Cold. Jo eventually stops pursuing her dream of becoming a writer and marries the next guy who comes along. Can you say rebound? He is the safe and secure option and wildly uninteresting. I don't even remember what happens to Meg because she's so bland. And finally, Beth dies so she can become a saint. Because eventually she would have exhibited some flaw, so it's better to use her flaw of "caring too much" to kill her rather than later explore what happens when an infallible person becomes fallible.

Lastly, if this is the vehicle for American values, it's a very limited aspect of them. It's very white, middle class (despite what you say about them being poor, they're still not that poor), Christian set of values. There's absolutely no discussion (no real discussion) about anything larger than their own small world and small viewpoint. There's no real distress. There's no real sadness or depressing ideas. It's all very bland. If we're talking 19th century with a bent toward moral sermonizing, I'd much prefer Dickens and his keen insight into the seedy underbelly of British society and a genuine interest in exposing crooks, thieves, and scoundrels.

All in all, if I wanted preachy, overblown, and boring. . .nah, I'm not looking for that, so there's nowhere else I would look for it. If I wanted another 19th century novel with a spunky young adult heroine with good morals embedded within it, I'd read Anne of Green Gables.

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