Day 733: Little Women

Cover for Little WomenOver the past months I have occasionally reread a childhood favorite to see what I think about it now. The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables, for example, came through with honors. Not only were both beautifully written, but I found them as entertaining as an adult as I did as a child.

Little Women doesn’t fare quite as well. I found some of the same parts of it affecting as I did when I was young. Who wouldn’t sympathize with these girls, bravely coping without the things their friends have, doing without their father for over a year, getting along as cheerfully as they can? However, as a child reading the book, I didn’t notice that almost every chapter ends with a moral lesson.

The novel covers about 12 years in the lives of the March family, beginning during the American Civil War. For the first half of the novel, Mr. March is away as a chaplain for the Union army. The main character is Jo March, at the start of the novel a tomboyish, gawky 15-year-old who loves writing and putting on plays, reading, and writing stories.

Her older sister Meg is more ladylike and laments having to wear old things to parties. Beth is the third sister, who is too shy to go to school. Amy is the youngest and a little spoiled. Although there are certainly events in their lives, the story is about how Marmee, their mother, raises them all to be good, productive women.

One of the closest relationships in the novel is the friendship between the family and their neighbor Laurie, a rich young man being raised by his grandfather. This and other relationships are warm ones, and the Marches all seem like real people, as do their friends.

If Alcott could have let up a bit on the moralizing, I would have enjoyed the novel more. The other two novels I mentioned earlier also have moral messages, but they leave the reader to figure them out themselves. Still, I’m sure any young girl reading this novel would be as drawn by it as I was years ago.

My comments have made me wonder what I would think of Eight Cousins, which was actually my favorite book by Alcott when I was a child. I’m a little afraid to find out.

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8 thoughts on “Day 733: Little Women

  1. The Paperback Princess July 9, 2015 / 12:28 pm

    It’s true that Little Women is a little hardcore with the whole “onward Christian soldiers” thing but I still find it a delight. Although when I read it now I think I skip the Pilgrim’s Progress chapter altogether.

    I haven’t read Eight Cousins but I keep meaning to!

    • whatmeread July 9, 2015 / 12:35 pm

      It’s not so much that as every chapter being an opportunity to learn a lesson–and having it spelled out for you. Didacticism, not my favorite!

      • The Paperback Princess July 9, 2015 / 1:08 pm

        When I go back and read these books, a lot of them seem that way. I think it was just really important at the time they were written for children to grow up to be good Christians and this was a way to get the message across. I agree that it’s a little heavy handed now.

      • whatmeread July 9, 2015 / 1:10 pm

        I think the tradition at the time was to be sure to put moral lessons into books for children, but you will notice that some great children’s authors don’t hit you over the head with it.

  2. Naomi July 9, 2015 / 1:23 pm

    I read this for the first time in my early 20s and loved it. I can’t remember feeling like everything was a lesson. I wonder what I would think now… Maybe I will just watch the movie again. 🙂

    • whatmeread July 9, 2015 / 1:24 pm

      I just noticed that this time. I think the last time I read it before that was when I was a kid, and of course, I noticed nothing of the kind. I loved it then. So, my comments probably aren’t applicable to someone who is getting it for their kids.

  3. Akshita July 10, 2015 / 3:06 am

    I read Little Women recently for the first time, and my thoughts were somewhat similar; I would probably have enjoyed it more had I been younger. However, I read somewhere about Alcott’s experience in writing Little Women. It came out as a moral-spouting book mainly because her publisher wanted it to be so. The parts which are somewhat sexist (especially related to marriages of these women) were also something that Alcott did not agree to as a person, but wrote because her publisher desired that marriage should be taught as a moral lesson.

    • whatmeread July 10, 2015 / 7:23 am

      That’s very interesting. It gives me more hope for Eight Cousins!

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