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message 51: by Robbie (new)

Robbie Bashore | 592 comments Thanks for expressing that so well, Alison. I agree.

message 52: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Jan 04, 2009 04:58PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Thank you, Robbie. Though, I almost changed my mind today about my previous comments.

SPOILER: When Beth knows she is dying, yet she is happily knitting mittens for the school kids who pass by her window? Has such a saint ever really walked the earth? It was almost too much. I think I'm going to have to go with five stars for young readers, 4 stars for adult readers. Still a classic to me, though. :)

message 53: by Emily (new)

Emily | 40 comments You're right it was a little too much, I feel like if the character Beth was taken out entirely I would have liked the book more.

message 54: by Dottie (last edited Jan 05, 2009 09:55AM) (new)

Dottie  (oxymoronid) | 698 comments It was a different time -- keep that in mind. An invalid could still keep busy and do some good. It's like encouraging elderly, unwell folks today to do what they still can to keep involved -- however small. I don't think Beth is supposed to be churning out mittens like a factory to pass out to urchins -- simply still being her patient, sweet natured and perhaps unambitious self and enduring her illness. (Does anyone else think of the reclusive Emily Dickinson regarding Beth -- Emily and her baking and knitting and lowering basketfuls of goodies down to the passing children?) She is an example of the rare human one can encounter in real life -- who is truly angelic in their existence. I have encountered a few of these in my own real life and so I do not feel Beth is such a stretch perhaps.

I count having encountered people who are beyond my own fumbling level of goodness as a blessing in my own life and look to memories of them as encouragement to do better. I think this is the idea behind the thread of Beth's story in the book. an indication that those who struggle can look to those who face worse problems and yet somehow seem not to struggle -- hope personified?

Just some thoughts to sound the other side of the coin a bit.

message 55: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 283 comments Dottie wrote: "It was a different time -- keep that in mind. An invalid could still keep busy and do some good. It's like encouraging elderly, unwell folks today to do what they still can to keep involved -- ho..."

Dottie - I too have known some people who were, like Beth, "too good for this world." I'm thinking of one woman who, dying of cancer, made and clothed little bears for people. It kept her busy, and she liked to be occupied. In a way, it was a gift to her friends and family - a gift of acceptance and normalcy.

Another thing to remember is that the book was written for children, so the moral lessons can seem a bit overblown.

message 56: by Dottie (last edited Jan 05, 2009 07:29PM) (new)

Dottie  (oxymoronid) | 698 comments I don't think the "lessons" laid out and tucked away in Little Women were so out of the norm for the time. I think the moral lessons were more out there and given more emphasis in those times. There were truly heavy-handed tracts and there were less heavy-handed ones and then there were simply lessons couched in good stories such as Little Women. To us it seems heavily laced with morals to be drawn because in our modern tales far fewer are given to obvious drawing of conclusions as to right and wrong action and moral living. Those books which do so usually have some controversy over the "teachings" offered. Look to such books as C.S. Lewis's Narnia series and Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials Trilogy -- both of which have proponents and opponents on both sides of the arguments for/against their religious content or lack thereof. Others which address modern problematical living (coming of age, divorce, etc.) -- think those of Judy Blume -- are often targets of censorship attempts.

message 57: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Nice GoodReads review of Little Women...

message 58: by Kathryn (last edited Jan 30, 2009 12:55PM) (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments Have any of you read Eight Cousins or the sequel Rose in Bloom I absolutely loved them when I read them as a teen. Interestingly we have another heroic father-figure here in Uncle Alec and he is also a norm-breaker, i.e., encouraging Rose to go out and "run wild" with the boys, not be confined in dresses and stuck to "women's roles." I think that, even if Alcott's books were a bit "preachy" and the adult role-models a bit overly perfect, it can be excused because her novels were remarkable in that they appealed to a majority of readers in the day who may not have been exposed to some of those ideals in any other way. If Marmee or Uncle Alec could inspire other parents, or the minds of young women (or men!) who would grow up to be parents, so much the better! :-)

Dottie and/or others who have read on Alcott's Transcendentalist connections, have you read Eden's Outcasts The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father yet? I've been waiting and waiting for my library to get the "on order" copy in--I've heard such good things, not only for content but for the writing style. Have you read any of Bronson's writings? Poor fellow, he was quite prolific but outshone by Thoreau and even Emerson who had more natural talent and felicity for composition and style.

message 59: by Dottie (new)

Dottie  (oxymoronid) | 698 comments Kathryn, I've not yet read the book you mentioned but it's on my buy-to-read list/shelf definitely. I have not explored Bronson Alcott's writings to any great extent and while I may have read something long ago, it has long since slipped away. I do recommend a biographical book about the family -- will have to check title and come back to add it.

As to Eight cousins and Rose in Bloom -- oh yes -- two which in my opinion rank right up there with Little Women. I fell in love with Mac as completely as did Rose, I must confess. I even bought a Complete Essays of Emerson and carried it about reading it in imitation of Mac at some point. Another book which I enjoyed a lot was An Old-Fashioned Girl whose heroine, Polly, echoes to some degree Louisa May Alcott's time spent in service with her mother's friend's family (Jo's time with Mrs. Kirk).

Many years later I named my dog after Louisa May Alcott and the character Mac and Polly's cat, Ashputtel -- his AKC name Ashputtel Alcott MacLaird (the Laird came from his sire). Heh.

message 60: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments Ah, Mac! What a sweetheart :-)

message 61: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 100 comments I finally finished the book!

At first I was not a big fan but as I got into it a little more I started enjoying it so much more. And now I have to say that it is a VERY good book! Now when Beth died I do have to admit that I cried for almost the rest of the book...

I think I would have liked the book so much more if Jo had not been given so many dark days! I was yelling at the book because it wasn't fair. But I do love how it all ended. I think that Mr. Bhaer was a perfect match for Jo because she is young with an older mind and he is older with a younger mind! They fit so perfectly!!!

I now want to read Little Men and Jo's Boys!!

message 62: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments I was too busy to read this with the group but I would like to reread it sometime with my "grown-up" eyes, especially to try to be more fair to Mr. Bhaer! As a fourteen year old, I simply could not stand that Jo did not go with Laurie!!! Perhaps now I'll understand better why. Just in retrospect, aided by the movie version, I do "get it" now! ;->

message 63: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 100 comments Yea at first I was very upset that she did not love Laurie and did not enjoy the fact that she was obviously going to be with the "old guy". But after thinking about it I now "get it" too. :-)

message 64: by Angie (new)

Angie | 511 comments I am finally reading this book... I am about 100 pages in and I don't know about it yet. It just isn't sucking me in. Though I am for sure going to finish it.

message 65: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 100 comments Oh I felt the same when I was reading it. About 1/2 way through it finally got really good. You just have to stick out the slow parts.

message 66: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments Glad you're going to stay with it, Angie! It is one of my all-time favorite books but, even if it doesn't end up being your cup of tea, I think it's one of THE "Great American books" that is just a must-read because it's so well-known.

message 67: by Angie (new)

Angie | 511 comments I finally just finished this book. It took me three weeks which is a really long time for me. And I am a little behind on this groups book club reads and trying hard to catch up. I guess that I just wasn't that into this book. It finally started to interest me in part two.

One of the things I thought was strange was the build up of the relationship between Jo and Laurie and then she lets him down. So I guess what I didn't understnad about Jo not ened up with Laurie was because it seemed to me the whole novel built it up as if that is what was to happen. I also thought it a little strange that Laurie would move from one sister to another. Personally if I was Amy I would think it a little weird to know my husband once was so in love with my sister and even asked her to marry him. But I guess with the times it was appropriate to ask another family member. I do think Amy and Laurie are a good match which is why I wish the book would've focused more on them. It is like they spent a month together abroad and then got married. CRAZY!

One thing I always thought about while reading was if they are so poor as a family how can they afford Hannah? With five other people in the house I am sure they could've done the chores themselves. I also didn't like how Jo stopped writing because she thought her stories didn't have morals in them. I didn't like how the author makes it seem like the only good and right stories out there have to have morals. Meg's incident with her husband was a bit off to me... I thought he should be at home helping her with twins rather than leaving her there alone and going off to his friends house. That was a big sign to me of the times this book was written.

Is the book Little Men as long as the book Little Women?

Overall I didn't enjoy the beginning of the book but I did enjoy the second part. It is not a book I would re-read. I thought it was a little long, some parts were just a little boring. We never really found out what happened to the dad if I remember correctly. That bothered me. I think maybe if this is one of the books I had read as a child the book may have different meaning to me.

message 68: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 283 comments Angie wrote: "I finally just finished this book. It took me three weeks which is a really long time for me. And I am a little behind on this groups book club reads and trying hard to catch up. I guess that I j..."

Angie - I think I can answer your question about Hannah. The March's means were greatly reduced, but they weren't totally impoverished. I believe Hannah had been Marmee's nurse and had been with the family for a long time and would have been considered a part of the family. Hannah probably stayed with the family for room and board and a small stipend.

Also, I was thinking about what you said about the big build up between Laurie and Jo, then he winds up with Amy. I don't think it becomes really apparent until Little Men and Jo's Boys, but what they were actually establishing was a lasting friendship.

message 69: by Kathryn (last edited Mar 25, 2009 07:56AM) (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments Angie, I TOTALLY get what you mean about the Jo/Laurie Laurie/Amy thing. It bugged the heck out of me when I read this years ago--I think I was about fourteen at the time and I absolutely adored Laurie and I thought it was CRAZY for Jo to go with "old" Mr. Baher instead. I wonder if, knowing what happens and being older now myself, I would appreciate it more this time. But, I don't think I really ever forgave Jo and then I thought it was so fast-and-crazy with Laurie going off with Amy! I mean, I do think we are supposed to think they love one another and it rather sets up all along that they'd be a good match (Amy always loving art, travel, nice things...) but, yeah, I always did wonder if Amy was only a second-best Jo to Laurie.

I agree with Deborah re: Hannah. In lots of Jane Austen's books, the families are poor or have reduced incomes/circumstances, but somehow they always end up retaining one or two servants.

As for the Jo stories thing, I don't remember that part so well, but it's interesting in terms of a reflection of Alcott's life because she'd been made to write lots of sensational stories to make money as that's what the publishers wanted, but then she decided she really wanted to write wholesome (albeit rather didactic) stories about family life. And that led to LITTLE WOMEN. I'm glad you read it, at least--it's such an American classic! :-)

message 70: by Angie (new)

Angie | 511 comments I didn't realize Hannah lived with them. I thought she had her own children and her own place? The one thing I liked about Beth's story was that it taught me more about scarlet fever. I could never figure out what she was so sick so I had to do some research on it.

I kinda feel like Jo lead Laurie on. Until she finally realized that she had let him and and then decides to travel. I kinda think she should've told her feelings to Laurie sooner.

message 71: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments I agree!

message 72: by Robbie (new)

Robbie Bashore | 592 comments As someone who had a lot of male friends when I was growing up, I can testify that, in those relationships, I just didn't think of my friend in a romantic/sexual way at all. If it turned out that one of them thought of me that way, I would have been very surprised. Especially with Laurie being introduced to them at such an early age, Jo probably thought of him much more like a brother or best friend than anything else. I didn't think she led him on at all.

message 73: by Angie (last edited Mar 25, 2009 10:38AM) (new)

Angie | 511 comments I was thinking of it in those days. I also have a lot of male friends.. I play video games, I love football, I love dirt, I love NASCAR, I love cars, ext. I really feel like I can hang with the boys. But today I don't think men would expect that I am wanting to hook up. I was thinking that in those days (I don't really know for sure) that it seemed to Laurie that Jo was really into him. I think because she treated him like no other girl. Maybe she lead him on indirectly, but I still think that because of the way she treated him he thought she was into him in a way that was more than friends.

message 74: by Meghan (new)

Meghan | 76 comments maybe, but i saw jo as being so unaware of romance and so opposed to it (remember how upset she was at the thought of meg leaving to be married) that she didn't think about laurie being in love with her. i saw her as not thinking of herself as a grown young lady, and as a romantic interest, so i don't think she led him on. she never treated him differently -- he was the one who started treating her differently. she treated him the same at 11 as she did at 15.

i've seen the '94 movie so many times now that i can't remember if i ever didn't love the professor. plus, the chapter "under the umbrella" is so sweet!

message 75: by Robbie (new)

Robbie Bashore | 592 comments You explained it better than I did, Meghan. Thanks!

message 76: by Kathryn (last edited Mar 26, 2009 08:23AM) (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments That is a good point, Meghan! It's been awhile since I read the book and I think the movie is clouding my judgment a little bit--Jo seems more aware in the film. But, that is a good point that she was probably just unaware of Laurie's feelings. I'm not saying that necessarily is an excuse for her--but I do think it is different than purposely leading him on.

For the record, I love Jo and I love LITTLE WOMEN so I don't really mean this as a criticism! :-) But, I always felt TERRIBLE about the Laurie situation!!!

message 77: by Dottie (last edited Mar 26, 2009 08:43AM) (new)

Dottie  (oxymoronid) | 698 comments Another point on this -- Jo and her sisters are being raised differently from the norms of how girls were raised in their time. Remember the troubles which beset Meg at Sally's party came about due to her more innocent stance being overtaken by the more worldly wise approach of the girls being raised in step with the times -- being a good, solid person vs the "social butterfly" out to find a good prospect for marriage. The March family wanted their girls to be good women and were in no hurry for them to be married off as many girls were then. Jo and Laurie's relationship was viewed as a brother-sister one by her and her family and the differences in the status of the two families became a moot point -- there was friendship and respect between the elder Mr. Lawrence and Mr. March before he had lost his money -- which I took it was not as great as the Lawrences but enough that the March family was in "reduced" financial straits at the time of the story. Look at Aunt March as a reference perhaps.

message 78: by Angie (new)

Angie | 511 comments Why did Aunt March end up leaving Jo the house when she seemed to like her the least?

message 79: by Meghan (new)

Meghan | 76 comments I always thought it was because she felt bad about not taking Jo to Europe. She'd planned to take her, and Jo was her companion for so long before Beth got sick and Amy went to stay with her. I think it was also because she wanted to show she thought Jo'd grown up and changed a lot -- she smoothed out some of her rough edges, which were the reason Aunt March didn't take Jo to Europe.

message 80: by Angie (new)

Angie | 511 comments I thought that it was real nice of Aunt March to do that. And I think Jo did a lot of good with it. I always wondered why Laurie was so disappointed in what Meg wore to that dance. I thought it was rude of him to not tell her she looked wonderful.

message 81: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 283 comments Dottie wrote: "Another point on this -- Jo and her sisters are being raised differently from the norms of how girls were raised in their time. Remember the troubles which beset Meg at Sally's party came about du..."

Dottie - very insightful and I think the parenting style of the March family probably reflected the ideas of the Alcott family. Since reading the book this time (and going on to Little Men and Jo's Boys) I've been thinking about the feeling of communal living that was prevalent in all the books. Didn't the Alcott's at one time live in a Utopian community of some kind?

message 82: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments Yes, the society they founded was Fruitlands. Bronson Alcott was "in" with the Transcendentalist movement and friends with the likes of Emerson and Thoreau. Here is a website with more info on Fruitlands:

Also, I've heard this biography is amazing though I haven't yet had a chance to read it:
Eden's Outcasts The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father

message 83: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 283 comments Angie wrote: "Why did Aunt March end up leaving Jo the house when she seemed to like her the least? "

Over the years I've wondered that myself. But I think that Aunt March felt that Jo was the least likely to marry and have a family, especially since Jo repeatedly declared that she would never marry (another slant on did she or did she not lead Laurie on). Aunt March probably thought that, by leaving Jo the property, she was providing both for Jo and for her parents, of whom, as a spinster daughter, she would have had the primary care.

message 84: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments I don't think that Jo *purposely* led Laurie on--but I think that, by her ignorance of his change in feelings, she did unintentionally give him false hopes. Surely part of this was on Laurie's shoulders, too, because he might have noticed that she had not changed her perspective or approach to him. I think he was just too desperately in love and she was too firmly in friendship--neither could truly see the other after a while.

message 85: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I don't think Jo purposefully led Laurie on, either. They were both young and naive in the ways of love. Experience is how we figure things out.

I agree with Deborah. I think Jo was a good fit to receive the house--just as Amy was a good fit to receive the trip to Europe, as she came across as more refined, sophisticated, and an all-around better traveling companion.

message 86: by [deleted user] (new)

i think that one of the sadest things is when jo loses beth...i cried for like ever...i love that book like so much...more people need to read it

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Books mentioned in this topic

Little Women (other topics)
A Handbook to Literature (other topics)
March (other topics)
Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father (other topics)
Eight Cousins (other topics)