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Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott > Question 5: The Womanly Art of Sacrifice

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message 1: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 384 comments Mod
Through Louisa May’s point of view, she (somewhat ironically) refers to the “womanly art of sacrifice” (p. 78). Why does she refer to sacrifice as “womanly,” and why is it an “art”?


message 2: by Carol (new)

Carol (cajonesdoa) | 640 comments Mod
One thing that came to mind is that both a mother and child were lost in childbirth while reading this book. That is a huge sacrifice for a family to bear, and it had to be women to bear it! The family remaining have to pick up and move on to keep things moving forward. How hard is that. When my own mother lost her life about 11 years ago, my father had never had to do things for himself, my mother did everything. I had a helpless man to take care of until he could get help. He absolutely wore me out for about 3 years. Become very cognizant of this as I have experienced it myself.


message 3: by Meghan (new)

Meghan | 115 comments She may refer to it as gender specific partially due to her experince in her own home, with a father figure who was unwilling to "sacrifice" anything for the good of anyone else. In her upbringing only the women sacrificed for the good of the family. And they got very creative inthat respect, hence the "art"


message 4: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 384 comments Mod
Meg, I think you're right. I do think that this comment is made quasi-sarcastically, but I found it very interesting. I mean, even today, the martyr mom is held up the very embodiment of femininity and, in my super conservative religious upbringing (Julie and Alisha were there!), the very embodiment of RELIGIOUS piety. Just listen to any mother's day sermon. Anyhoo, I love that Louisa calls it an "art," because it implies that they're faking it a bit. It's a veneer, an ACT. Continual sacrifice is a role women play to get by; it's not who they actually are. And of course it's feminine. Bronson can easily live by lofty ideals; his wife raises four children, figures out how to feed them, and so on. She might have grand philosophies too, but she's not going to have a spare minute to indulge in them. She's too busy subsidizing her husband's.


message 5: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Opp | 13 comments She also may have referred to it as "womanly" because men were simply not required to sacrifice the way women were, so it really had to be gender specific. An "art" is a skill or talent that usually has to be worked at to become really proficient. We aren't innately endowed with a sacrificing nature. Quite the contrary. It's just that if you have a family, SOMEbody needs to sacrifice at least some of the time, or the children may as well be raised by a pack of wolves. Abba had to do the sacrificing because Bronson was too busy with his head in the clouds and simply refused to live up to HIS responsibilities. And I think Ashley's right when she says that art "implies that they're faking it a bit." How could it not? I really liked that Abba didn't make the girls feel that they were a burden. Her burden was Bronson. Wouldn't it have been interesting if Abba and the girls had just quit doing anything for Bronson, and made him fend for HIMself?


message 6: by Lauren (new)

Lauren | 251 comments Loved everyone's comments. Right after I read this thread, I came across a section of Eden's Outcasts (a biography on Louisa and Bronson - yes, I'm being the Monica) and it resonated with me, partially because of this thread. I'm including some excerpts here:

From Chapter Six: First Fruits

p. 141 - "According to Louisa in 'Transcendental Wild Oats,' a visitor once asked Abba if the Fruitlands farm possessed any beasts of burden. The witty but rueful reply was, 'Only one woman.'"

p. 143 - "Whereas Alcott received praise from some quarters for the purity of his vision, it was Abba's unacknowledged toil that daily kept that vision from dissolving. Abba told her diary in late August:
'Miss Page made a good remark, and true as good, that a woman may live a whole life of sacrifice, and at her death meekly says, 'I die a woman.' A man passes a few years in experiments in self-denial and simple life, and he says, 'Behold a God.''"

If this is one of the sources McNees used in crafting the world of Lost Summer, it's no wonder Louisa was hesitant to enter into any marriage.


message 7: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 384 comments Mod
Wow, great quotes Monica, I mean Lauren. :) Those two examples are VERY telling. Thanks for sharing!


message 8: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl | 134 comments NANCY, I SOOOO AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT WOMEN'S SACRIFICES. IT'S ALMOST AN EXPECTATION. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE A BOOK OF VERY SHORT FICTION ON BRONSON'S PERSONAL SURVIVAL WITHOUT HIS FAMILY OF WOMEN ENABLERS!


message 9: by Carol (new)

Carol (cajonesdoa) | 640 comments Mod
When we first started this group, there were three names that were alluded to that you all are into--who is Monica, and the other two names. For those of us that don't know who or what you are talking about, or not if it's something personal, was just wondering who those three were so I could understand your "inside" jokes. Thanks - hey I just finished a really good book called "Blood Lure" by Nevada Barr. I love her writing style. Very suspenseful. My Kindle had run out of juice, so back to "Skippy!"


message 10: by Julie (new)

Julie | 168 comments Hi Carol,

"Monica" refers to the character on the sitcom Friends-- she is very high strung, controlling and tends to overplan, but in a way that makes her quite endearing. The other two names may have been referring to other characters from the show.


message 11: by Alisha (new)

Alisha Rivera | 145 comments Carol-

The other two names mentioned, Chandler and Phoebe, are also characters on Friends. Chandler is a bit awkward at times, but witty- always has the best jokes. Phoebe is hippyish- free spirited, musician/massage therapist.

Hope this helps understand the jokes- Friends was really popular when a lot of us were in high school & college.


message 12: by Carol (last edited Jul 19, 2011 10:10AM) (new)

Carol (cajonesdoa) | 640 comments Mod
Thanks for the update on this. I never watched it so that is why I'm missing your inferences. This will make more sense to me. You're right, it was really popular, just we didn't watch it when it was in its heyday.


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