Rereading Little Women
I ending up having a mixed experience. By the end, though, I did still like it. Actually, I was surprised to find that, for me, what is actually the second book (Good Wives) is very good and that the first, while home to some of the most memorable moments, is not so good. Allow me to explain a little.
- The constant authorial digs at Amy in the first book.
- I don’t have any issues with the butting of heads between Jo and Amy. It feels real and reads realistically and I, probably like most of you, couldn’t stand Amy when I was younger. What is odd, and what I didn’t notice as a kid, was how often Alcott puts in little comments about Amy that are unnecessary. Also, Amy is 13 in the first book. Come on!
- An example of these is when the girls and Laurie are talking about their castles in the air, which are their ambitions. Four out of five of them (cough, Beth) mention things that are certainly big dreams. Amy states her ambition and, even though it’s very similar to everyone else’s, Alcott closes it with “was Amy’s modest desire.” Uncalled for shade exhibit Q.
- The excessive preaching that feels like it’s coming from her parents.
- Fun fact: You probably knew that Louisa May Alcott did not want to write for children. When she finally did give in to her editor’s wish, she did so with the agreement that her father’s book would be published, too.
- I don’t have a problem with morality in books and know that it was very in keeping with the time. It is extremely heavy-handed, though, in a way that seems to fall very in line with Marmee’s way of moralizing. There is still morality in the second book, but it’s not nearly as all consuming, which may be because she was writing that part for the fans, rather than writing something she thought might please her parents? Just a theory.
- The Marmee idolatry.
- I’m sorry, but Marmee actually sounds pretty awful. Marmee let their pet bird, Pip, DIE in order to teach the kids a lesson about laziness. Because, you know, they don’t do enough already.
- Beth’s sweetness.
- Okay, ‘fess up. Does anyone like Beth that much? As a kid, I think most of us find her a little boring and then maybe cry when she dies because we’re fools who don’t notice the constant foreshadowing. I certainly don’t mind a character who is good, but there is nothing more to Beth. It’s as if she was never alive anyways. “You’re a dear and nothing else” Meg tells her in the first chapter. Why did Alcott not make her a less cloying and slightly more rounded character?
- Apparently Lizzie, who Beth was based on, actually had a lot of rage at the end of her life. Is it possible that Alcott was trying to rewrite those memories in some way?
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