Corrie's Reviews > Little Women

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
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Dec 04, 13


The book begins:


"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents, grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

It's so dreadful to be poor! sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all, added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

We've got Father and Mother, and each other, said Beth contentedly from her corner."

There's an undercurrent of anger in this book and I think Louisa May Alcott would have gone much further with it if her publisher had allowed it and if it weren't a children's book.

Louisa herself was fiercely independent and didn't marry. Of course, Jo, her doppelganger and the heroine of the book, did marry. I think the struggle for girls and women to be themselves while following convention is an experience that resonates today. I also think that, ironically, when people today want to return to the simple life, they all forget that there was no simple life. Although youngest sister Amy carries her books to school, writes with an inkwell and fights over pickled limes, her father is fighting a real war fought for ideology and national unity. Martha Stewart has us searching for the "good things" and harkening back to garden bounties but nineteenth century girls and women were nearly bound to the home.

Young boys and girls might find the domesticity in the book offputting but it was necessary for people to have domestic skills or they could not survive. The working poor in the 1860s, like the working poor today, could not afford maids. Louisa May Alcott's family occasionally made money from making and mending clothing just to get by. I think there was just as much screaming as crying going on in the Alcott household, but Louisa tones things down for the March family.

The March family and the sisters made me yearn for my own sisters which never materialized. I also realized that wanting to draw, paint, play music, perform plays and write were interests that I shared with people of another time period. The book itself was written after the Civil War and has a purposeful nostalgic tone.

Jo scribbles in the attic and relishes the time she has to write but she is expected to work as a caretaker for her elderly aunt. None of these girls are independently wealthy and the poverty that Alcott writes about in the book mirrors the poverty of her own life but she softens the reality for her fiction. Alcott's father Amos Bronson Alcott was not a soldier, yet he was often away from home. He was a dynamic lecturer and a revolutionary educator who was disillusioned by public reaction to some of his innovations and was often jobless.

While a good portion of white northerners were against slavery and wanted more rights for black Americans, they did not go as far as the Alcotts did in their support. I wish that she had written more about their anti-slavery positions.
It's also not widely known that Bronson Alcott was shunned for educating black students.

Reading Little Women in fourth grade caused me to work as a historical interpreter at the Orchard House for six years many years later. I visited Fruitlands, the Old Manse, the Wayside and the House of the Seven Gables. I studied transcendentalism and learned about the contributions of Elizabeth Peabody and other great female intellectuals of the nineteenth century. I was forever changed after reading the book and I've reread it too many times to count.

Louisa was a master marketer akin to J.K. Rowling. She also had a strong survival instinct like Rowling. She desperately needed to make money and writing was her one marketable skill. Notably, she was able to write the book under her own name and not use a gender neutral pseudonym.

The book is written for a younger audience and older readers reading it for the first time might not feel a connection with the book because all Victorian children's books were infused with a heavy dose of morality. Girls especially have always been told to endure hardships while remaining happy. My grandmother Ethel, who grew up in the 1930s, told me her mother said to her: "It's easy to be happy when life rolls along like a song. But it's the girl who's worthwhile who will smile when everything goes wrong."
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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Brenda Reinicke Corrie, loved your review. It made me look at the book in a very different way.


message 2: by Maria (new)

Maria Carmo I loved this review.

I do not know who asked the question about whether we feel as a Jo, a Meg, an Amy or a Beth, but I know I definitelly feel as JO myself! Well, maybe less prudish... LOL.

Congratulations for the review. Wonderful


Corrie Thank you Maria and Brenda. Happy New Year!



message 4: by Maria (new)

Maria Carmo I am still starting, and it is difficult when no one looks at reviews and so on. Would you give a hand by exchanging comments from time to time?

All the best,
Maria


message 5: by ~M~ (new) - rated it 5 stars

~M~ I really love your review. I do love this book and think I know it well, but am not familiar with the backstory.


message 6: by Jozelle (new)

Jozelle Love your review! It explains the different side of the book. :D


Corrie Thank you very much. Caught part of Little Women performed in Concord last week and want to return to see the play again (www.concordplayers.org). So many memories.


message 9: by Maria (new)

Maria Carmo Excellent review!


message 10: by Ràj (new) - rated it 1 star

Ràj Kûmàrdo good


message 11: by Gina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gina Excellent review! Thank you for the behind the scenes look at Louisa May Alcott and her family!


Corrie "Which Little Woman Are You?"

http://www.buzzfeed.com/katieheaney/w...


message 13: by Gina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gina I got Meg!


Corrie Hi to all the nice people who read my review! The Orchard House has a great Kickstarter that those who loved Little Women might be into: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/....


message 15: by Eugenia (new)

Eugenia Rosemary You're completely right. The domesticity seems weird now but that's the way things were back then.


Corrie The Kickstarter to create a documentary on Orchard House -- the home of Little Women -- has been fully funded! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/...


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