An old maid, that's what I'm to be. A literary spinster, with a pen for a spouse, a family of stories for children, and twenty years hence a morsel of fame, perhaps...
~Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, Ch. 43
Little Women: A Tale that has stood the Test of Time “I like good strong words that mean something…”
And really who doesn’t? These words spoken by Louisa May Alcott’s heroine Jo March are as pertinent today as they were 145 years ago when Alcott penned them. These words of course have contributed to one of the many reasons I wanted to become a writer. I remember reading this book for the first time as a child, home sick with strep throat, which for a kid who liked to talk is a travesty! And then I met Jo March, and realized there was an entire new world out there, waiting for me to write it!
Little Women is the tale of four sisters; Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg. Their tale is timeless, and has even been transposed for the Broadway stage! It is set in Alcott’s home in Concord, Massachusetts, a pilgrimage; I remember dragging my family to when I was very young! Alcott blends a tapestry of love in this family as their father is away fighting in the Civil War and their mother (Marmee) tries to keep the spirits of her daughters up while maintaining as normal of a household as possible. The girls are as diverse as four sisters can be. Meg is the oldest of the four girls and at sixteen is able to run the household when she needs to for her mother. Beth is thirteen and always thinks of others, and Amy, the youngest, is the artist and when the book begins is twelve years old. However, it is the second eldest, Josephine, or Jo, that is the character that stays with you the most. Jo is a writer, so one can only surmise that Alcott saw bits of herself in Jo, and has trouble curbing her temper. Jo is the character I most identified with as a child not only for the simple fact that she was a writer, but in the world of Barbie she was a strong female character to look up to.
Chapter 8 of this novel has stayed with me throughout my childhood, and even now as an adult. Without giving away too much of the plot, a grave injustice is done upon Jo at the hands of her younger sister Amy. As events fold in this chapter, Jo sees the danger in her stubbornness and quick temper, and goes to her mother for guidance. As a child I was so moved by this piece that I had a drawing hanging in my room that reminded me of the scene. I thought it was great that Jo could confide in her mother without reservation, and as a naive ten year old I of course romanticized the notion for my own life. As a mother reading this chapter again, I am reminded in the type of mother I strive to be, as Marmee says in this scene; “He [Jo’s father] helped and comforted me and showed me that I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example” (Alcott). As a mom this of course is something I strive for, although admittedly not always succeeding. I am glad Alcott’s words are there for a reminder!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a tale that has stood up to the test of time. The story’s poignant themes of love, a woman’s struggle in the world and the poverty of the working poor, are themes we can still relate to today. If you’re compiling a literary bucket list for the summer, be sure to add this to your list!
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. 1868. Project Gutenberg. August 2010. Accessed 7 July 2013. <http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/514>
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