Thursday, June 07, 2018

Little Women

Little Women. Louisa May Alcott. 1868. 566 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: “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.

Premise/plot: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are the 'little women' of the March family. The novel opens during the Civil War; their father is away and will be away for the duration. Marmee and Hannah try their best to raise the girls right. Laurie (aka Teddy Laurence) isn't always the best influence!

The first half of the novel is a coming-of-age novel. The young women have a lot of adventures and misadventures and life lessons to learn before they are ready to face the world as women. Each girl has her 'burden' to bear; each burden is unique. Beth's burden, for example, is her intense or profound shyness.

The second half of the novel features the women all grown up--essentially. Meg is married and has twins. Jo has gone off to the big city as a governess/writer. Amy has gone abroad. Beth, well, Beth stays at home and endures her physical suffering like a saint.

My thoughts:  I didn't read Little Women wholly until I was in college. Though I made it through the first half of the novel a handful of times, I never worked up as much interest in the second half. It didn't help that I knew Beth was going to....well...you know....die. Beth and her shyness was the character I identified with most. It didn't seem fair that she didn't get a happily ever after ending like her sisters. (I've made peace with that now.)

I definitely almost love Little Women. I do love it--in a way. But I don't think it stands a chance of ranking in my favorite, favorite, favorite books of all time list or my favorite books to reread list. I appreciate it; I find it charming. I love a good adaptation of it.

I've been sharing my quotes in my Victorian posts. This last selection of quotes come from chapter thirty-nine on to the end.
“Rome took all the vanity out of me, for after seeing the wonders there, I felt too insignificant to live and gave up all my foolish hopes in despair.” “Why should you, with so much energy and talent?” “That’s just why, because talent isn’t genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing. I won’t be a common-place dauber, so I don’t intend to try any more.”
“I’m never angry with you. It takes two flints to make a fire. You are as cool and soft as snow.”
The pleasantest room in the house was set apart for Beth, and in it was gathered everything that she most loved, flowers, pictures, her piano, the little worktable, and the beloved pussies. Father’s best books found their way there, Mother’s easy chair, Jo’s desk, Amy’s finest sketches, and every day Meg brought her babies on a loving pilgrimage, to make sunshine for Aunty Beth.
Amy’s lecture did Laurie good, though, of course, he did not own it till long afterward. Men seldom do, for when women are the advisers, the lords of creation don’t take the advice till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it, and, if it succeeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails, they generously give her the whole.
As the word “brotherly” passed through his mind in one of his reveries, he smiled, and glanced up at the picture of Mozart that was before him . . . “Well, he was a great man, and when he couldn’t have one sister he took the other, and was happy.”
“How well we pull together, don’t we?” said Amy, who objected to silence just then. “So well that I wish we might always pull in the same boat. Will you, Amy?” very tenderly. “Yes, Laurie,” very low. Then they both stopped rowing, and unconsciously added a pretty little tableau of human love and happiness to the dissolving views reflected in the lake.
For the parents who had taught one child to meet death without fear, were trying now to teach another to accept life without despondency or distrust, and to use its beautiful opportunities with gratitude and power.
Now, if she had been the heroine of a moral storybook, she ought at this period of her life to have become quite saintly, renounced the world, and gone about doing good in a mortified bonnet, with tracts in her pocket. But, you see, Jo wasn’t a heroine, she was only a struggling human girl like hundreds of others, and she just acted out her nature, being sad, cross, listless, or energetic, as the mood suggested. It’s highly virtuous to say we’ll be good, but we can’t do it all at once, and it takes a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together before some of us even get our feet set in the right way.
“I’ve no heart to write, and if I had, nobody cares for my things.” “We do. Write something for us, and never mind the rest of the world. Try it, dear. I’m sure it would do you good, and please us very much.”
Jo never knew how it happened, but something got into that story that went straight to the hearts of those who read it, for when her family had laughed and cried over it, her father sent it, much against her will, to one of the popular magazines, and to her utter surprise, it was not only paid for, but others requested.
“I don’t understand it. What can there be in a simple little story like that to make people praise it so?” she said, quite bewildered. “There is truth in it, Jo, that’s the secret. Humor and pathos make it alive, and you have found your style at last. You wrote with no thoughts of fame and money, and put your heart into it, my daughter. You have had the bitter, now comes the sweet. Do your best, and grow as happy as we are in your success.”
So taught by love and sorrow, Jo wrote her little stories, and sent them away to make friends for themselves and her, finding it a very charitable world to such humble wanderers, for they were kindly welcomed, and sent home comfortable tokens to their mother, like dutiful children whom good fortune overtakes.
Gentlemen, which means boys, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or color. Just recollect the good aunts who have not only lectured and fussed, but nursed and petted, too often without thanks, the scrapes they have helped you out of, the tips they have given you from their small store, the stitches the patient old fingers have set for you, the steps the willing old feet have taken, and gratefully pay the dear old ladies the little attentions that women love to receive as long as they live.
Mr. Bhaer could read several languages, but he had not learned to read women yet. He flattered himself that he knew Jo pretty well, and was, therefore, much amazed by the contradictions of voice, face, and manner, which she showed him in rapid succession that day, for she was in half a dozen different moods in the course of half an hour.
“Heart’s dearest, why do you cry?” Now, if Jo had not been new to this sort of thing she would have said she wasn’t crying, had a cold in her head, or told any other feminine fib proper to the occasion. Instead of which, that undignified creature answered, with an irrepressible sob, “Because you are going away.” “Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you. I came to see if you could care for it, and I waited to be sure that I was something more than a friend. Am I? Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?” he added, all in one breath. It was certainly proposing under difficulties, for even if he had desired to do so, Mr. Bhaer could not go down upon his knees, on account of the mud.
Jo never, never would learn to be proper, for when he said that as they stood upon the steps, she just put both hands into his, whispering tenderly, “Not empty now,” and stooping down, kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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