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Sonia Montdore
12-16-2006, 08:46 PM
This thread is for readers Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Let's discuss the books, the characters and LMA.

I'll start - are you still peeved with LMA for not letting Jo marry Laurie?
I am. She married him to Amy? Amy? When I was ten and reading LW for the first time, I'd never heard the phrase "What the fuck?" but if I'd known it I'd have used it when Laurie got hitched to that popinjay. Why do you suppose LMA did that?

RachelChristine
12-16-2006, 10:20 PM
Now see, I thought Jo was right. She knew that they were much better as friends than lovers. They would have fought too much! I always thought she made sense in refusing him, no matter how hard it was. I did think it was a little too "easy-way-out" when he married Amy. Gotta have the happy ending of him marrying a March girl!

What I'd like to know is how many of you skip the Pickwick Paper when you do a reread? I know I always do!

Anaamika
12-16-2006, 10:22 PM
I skip the pickwick Paper, and I think Jo absolutely should not have married Laurie. Mr. Bhaer was the man for her.

freckafree
12-16-2006, 10:49 PM
Little Women is one of my all-time favorite books.

I felt it was good that these two initially shallow people matured and ended up together. But then, I read Little Men before I read Little Women, so I had already seen Amy and Laurie as mature adults and parents of a fragile child, and Jo as the wife of Professor Bhaer.

I read two passages from Little Women at my sister's wedding. One was Marmee's comment to Meg after she goes to "Vanity Fair": "To be loved ...by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience."

The other was this:
"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. It was dreadful, but she would have done it if the flock of draggle-tailed sparrows on the hedge had been human beings, for she was very far gone indeed, and quite regardless of everything but her own happiness. Though it came in such a very simple guise, that was the crowning moment of both their lives, when, turning from the night and storm and loneliness to the household light and warmth and peace waiting to receive them, with a glad Welcome home! Jo led her lover in, and shut the door."

I was so choked up I could barely get through it.

Lucky 13
12-16-2006, 11:19 PM
I read Little Women back in middle school. I remember being really mad when Amy's teacher hit her on the hands for eating pickled limes in class. (Or was it lemons? I don't remember exactly.) Also, Jo was my favorite of the four, because she was a bookworm like me, and I wished I was as brave as she was, and still do.

IMO, the chapters featuring Meg's domestic life with John were pretty useless.

kung fu lola
12-16-2006, 11:28 PM
I did think it was a little too "easy-way-out" when he married Amy. Gotta have the happy ending of him marrying a March girl!

I half-agree, but it also makes sense to me that Amy and Laurie's bond would mature as they experienced grieving Beth together in Europe. Amy was essentially stranded there with no connection to her home but Laurie. The trauma of losing Beth would have been the defining moment of her coming of age, the thing that pushed her from girlhood to womanhood. Laurie, who had newly come into his own independence, was in an ideal position to comfort and advise her. The fact that they were "alone together", isolated in Europe but from the same home soil, would have pushed them even closer to one another.
I think that if I were in that situation, I would be ripe for falling in love as well.

ivylass
12-17-2006, 08:31 AM
IMO, the chapters featuring Meg's domestic life with John were pretty useless.

I thought they were sweet, and showed her maturing as well. She was a bit of a social climber, as evidenced by her fortnight away at "debutante camp" and her envy at how the family of the children she taught lived. I loved the part where she modeled John's new heavy coat for him and asked how he liked her new gown.

What did Beth die of? I know she never fully recovered from scarlet fever...do we assume it was a weakened heart or cancer?

Put me in the "Amy and Laurie" camp. Jo and Laurie were better friends.

I liked the Pickwick Papers.

freckafree
12-17-2006, 09:23 AM
I always assumed she died of a weakened heart. The description of her becoming so tired she can no longer even sew kind of fits that.

What the hell is a pickled lime, anyway?

ivylass
12-17-2006, 09:24 AM
I'm assuming some kind of candied fruit.

kittenblue
12-17-2006, 09:47 AM
Somehow, despite being a complete bookworm my entire life, I got to age 48 before I read the entire Little Women book. Oh, I knew the storyline and had read excerpts in textbooks, but never sat down and read it cover to cover. Never even went and saw the last movie, though I know I saw parts of the earlier one. But a group from my church was going to see the stage production last year, so I grabbed my daughter's copy of the book and read it. While I didn't care for the musical production, I liked the book. While I really felt sad that Jo rejected Laurie, I felt it was for the best. And Amy matured quite a bit in Europe, and she really needed a rich man to keep her happy. Jo just needed a father.

Sonia Montdore
12-17-2006, 10:14 AM
(snip) What the hell is a pickled lime, anyway?
http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq2.html#pickledlimes
http://www.ivcooking.com/p269_72.php

Sonia Montdore
12-17-2006, 10:24 AM
Little Women is one of my all-time favorite books ... I read two passages from Little Women at my sister's wedding. One was Marmee's comment to Meg after she goes to "Vanity Fair": "To be loved ...by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience."

The other was this:
"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. It was dreadful, but she would have done it if the flock of draggle-tailed sparrows on the hedge had been human beings, for she was very far gone indeed, and quite regardless of everything but her own happiness. Though it came in such a very simple guise, that was the crowning moment of both their lives, when, turning from the night and storm and loneliness to the household light and warmth and peace waiting to receive them, with a glad Welcome home! Jo led her lover in, and shut the door."

I was so choked up I could barely get through it.

freckafree, those are indeed beautiful passages! What a lovely and inspired idea to read them at a wedding. I truly wish I'd thought of it. I married a German and the closest I got to your idea was to muse briefly as he and I stood before the officiant, "I wonder if this how Jo felt when she married Professor Bhaer?"

Dopers, a number of feminist scholars these days think that LMA was a deeply closeted lesbian. Do you you think that the depth of feeling in the two passages that freckafree quotes refutes this theory?

athelas
12-17-2006, 01:34 PM
No, the fact that it's a theory advanced by "feminist scholars" does that already. :P Not to mention that it falls into the pattern of the frequently-refuted "OMG! So-and-so is teh ghey!"

delphica
12-17-2006, 07:34 PM
In terms of plot and character development, I understand why LMA put Amy and Laurie together, but emotionally I'm still shocked and horrified that it wasn't Laurie and Jo. I'm sure it didn't help that the first time I read LW, I was young enough that the Professor seemed like a "random old guy," making it all the more perplexing when Jo fell for him. And I even like Amy.

Caprese
12-17-2006, 07:57 PM
I was shocked and bummed at Jo's refusal all those years ago when I first read LW.
But I can see how it works. (I've since read the book a zillion times.)
Laurie really wanted to be a part of the March family, Amy wanted to be comfortable, and yeah, Prof Bhaer was a bit of a father figure and a patient soul for the tempestuous Jo.
When I was younger, the domestic Meg bored me, but when I got older, I liked those parts.
Every now and then I skip the Pickwick Papers, but I've noticed that when I do bother to read them, I like 'em.
freckafree: Lovely passages, lovely thought to use them.

Anaamika
12-17-2006, 08:35 PM
I forgot to mention it is one of my favorite books, too.

gallows fodder
12-18-2006, 02:21 AM
I remember that when I first read Little Women as a little girl, I had skimmed ahead to a part in which Laurie and Amy are together in Paris and Laurie is thinking about life without Jo, and I was confused -- had Jo died? And when I flipped to the back and saw that Jo was still alive, I was seriously confused. Why was Laurie not with Jo?? What the heck?!

And then when I got to the part where Jo refused Laurie, I bawled. I'm talking full-on vocal sobbing. The line that killed me was when he starts stalking off and Jo asks him where he's going and he answers, "To the Devil!" Oh, God, my little heart was wrung dry.

And then he marries Amy?! WTF, LMA, WTF? Thank God for my imagination, where I could enact Jo and Laurie's reconciliation and marriage and happy family life. And Amy's death.

I still read Little Men and Jo's Boys, though (and An Old-Fashioned Girl, which I also liked). IIRC, there's a scene in one of the sequels (Little Men, I think) where Laurie comes to visit Jo and watches her napping on a couch, and then she wakes up and sees him and calls him "Teddy," which makes him smile ruefully, as Amy calls him "My Lord" -- am I remembering this correctly? I do remember seizing on this scene as proof that Amy was a worthless ass and Laurie still loved Jo. Ah, one could dream.

Have any of you read LMA's A Long Fatal Love Chase? I started it a little while ago, but it read like bad fanfiction so I gave it up. It was fun to read out loud, though.

Lissla Lissar
12-18-2006, 09:54 AM
I think Amy calls Laurie "My Lord", and Laurie calls her, "Mrs. Laurence". Yep, he does. Near the end of Good Wives.

After mature reflection, I have decided that I think Amy is better for Laurie than Jo. So I'm not mad.

I like the books, but Jo's Boys always drives me mad, because of the sentimentality of Dan's redemption and unrequited love. I re-read the whole series every couple of years, and then feel sort of treacly.

Has anyone read the novel March, based on the life of Mr. March? I've just borrowed it and haven't started. It won the Pulitzer this year.

delphica
12-18-2006, 11:38 AM
Oh, I also wanted to mention how often I reference LW (to myself, mostly) -- every time I have one glove on and one glove off, I think about how Meg decided she and Jo could each wear one glove and carry a lemonade-stained glove.

I use "It's your only beauty!" or more often, change it to "It's my only beauty!" whenever I get caught up in something trivial, like "I broke a nail ... and IT'S MY ONLY BEAUTY!" "The jelly won't jell !" is good whenever something simple isn't working.

There's a game where you substitute one word of a famous quote with an anagram of that word, and the best result EVER (in the history of quotation games) is "Christmas won't be Christmas without any serpents." Mr. Del has never read LW, but he heard me say that once and now we say it all the time, and it's the first thing we say to each other when we wake up on Christmas morning.

And I always wanted to have a chapel in my closet. I think now, though, that Amy's closet must have been the larger, walk-in kind, but when I was little I always imagined her praying while sitting on shoes and tennis rackets. It seemed very drah-mat-ic.

Lissa
12-18-2006, 12:13 PM
What the hell is a pickled lime, anyway?

I had always assumed that Amy may have been suffering from a light case of scurvy which would explain her craving for limes and her family's indulgence of it. The Victorian diet, espcially for families of modest means like the Marches, was often low on vitamins.

As a young girl, I fantasized about going back in time with a bottle of Flinstones vitamins, a bag of oranges, and a basket of wholesome, fresh vegetables and fattening up poor Beth.

ivylass
12-18-2006, 12:17 PM
I think Amy also matured a lot...she realized in Europe that she did not have the artistic talent that she thought she did and gracefully gave up her dream, and turned down a much wealthier Englishman to marry Laurie.

Do you think Aunt March did right not taking Jo to Europe, taking Amy instead? I think she made the right choice, and taught Jo a lesson I think she badly needed, with her ungrateful, me-against-the-world attitude she got every once in awhile, while Amy grew up a whole bunch with her Tour.

Scribble
12-18-2006, 12:37 PM
I always assumed she died of a weakened heart. The description of her becoming so tired she can no longer even sew kind of fits that.

I thought it was tuberculosis. Wasn't she described as having "consumption" (now called "TB") and having trouble breathing?

No Power In The 'Verse
12-18-2006, 12:57 PM
I have to say that I never cry at anything but in Bethís final chapter I sit with a box of tissues and sob. The relationship of Jo and Beth always reminded me of me and my little sister so I guess thatís why it hits home. I too thought Mr. Bhaer was a random old man at first, now I think heís on my list of literary crushes.

ivylass
12-18-2006, 01:24 PM
I thought it was tuberculosis. Wasn't she described as having "consumption" (now called "TB") and having trouble breathing?

They never came out and stated her disease, just that she never fully recovered from the scarlet fever. I'm guessing the fever damaged her heart in some way...she died in her early 20s, I believe.

WhyNot
12-18-2006, 01:46 PM
While LMA didn't call it such, today if we could autopsy Beth, we'd probably say that Beth died of congestive heart failure (responsible for her weakness, shortness of breath and quiet voice) caused by rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is not an infection, but a cross-reactive disorder - the same antibodies that fight off the strep A also damage the heart, joints or skin. Sometimes, but not always, rheumatic fever follows Strep A infections like scarlet fever and strep throat. (That is, it always follows a case of strep - although the case may be undiagnosed and asymptomatic - but not every case of strep results in rheumatic fever.) Lots of people mistakingly use "scarlet fever" and "rheumatic fever" synonymously, but they are not the same thing. Writers talking about a prolonged convalescence from scarlet fever are actually noting the symptoms of rheumatic fever - scarlet fever itself is over in a couple of weeks. Rheumatic fever usually starts about 20 days after the first symptoms of scarlet fever.

teela brown
12-18-2006, 02:03 PM
I have nearly every copy of everything LMA wrote, and thank goodness for Project Gutenberg or I'd never have had a chance to read some of her early writings like her novel Work. I also have a biography entitled, I think, Louisa May, which is a fascinating read.

It's interesting to note the origin of some of the events which were written into her novels. I'm going to have to read the biography again, but I seem to remember it was mother Alcott who brought about scarlet fever in her daughter Elizabeth, either by bringing it home or by sending her on a charity mission. Mother Alcott was addicted to charity, to the point of neglecting her own family. LMA had a blind spot regarding her parents, and it was characteristic of her to put the fault of Beth's death in the novel onto the shoulders of Jo.

Another factoid of interest from the biography: the Alcott family were friends with such interesting New England artists as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The young child LMA was infatuated with Thoreau, and would follow him around on his tramps through the forest. The author of the biography feels that this early obsession was the basis of LMA's heroes in her books often being shown as rough, woodsman-like men, like Mack in Rose in Bloom or Dan in Jo's Boys.

Sonia Montdore
12-18-2006, 05:15 PM
Which of the several movie versions of LW is your favorite and why?

I like the 1949 version because Peter Lawford looked exactly like the picture of Laurie that I had in my head.

Caprese
12-18-2006, 05:33 PM
Which of the several movie versions of LW is your favorite and why?

I like the 1949 version because Peter Lawford looked exactly like the picture of Laurie that I had in my head.
I like Gillian Armstrong's version from 1994.
I thought it was beautifully shot: those snowy Christmas scenes, Meg's wedding, Beth's passing.
I loved Susan Sarandon as Marmee, Christian Bale as Laurie, Gabriel Byrne as Prof Bhaer and Kirsten Dunst as young Amy. And Winona Ryder was pretty good as Jo.
Never was sure how I felt about Claire Danes as Beth, but all the other portrayals rang true to me.

Lissa
12-18-2006, 05:39 PM
I loved Susan Sarandon as Marmee, Christian Bale as Laurie, Gabriel Byrne as Prof Bhaer and Kirsten Dunst as young Amy. And Winona Ryder was pretty good as Jo.
Never was sure how I felt about Claire Danes as Beth, but all the other portrayals rang true to me.

That's my favorite. I thought Danes was luminous and ethereal in her portrayal of Beth . She struck just the right note of delicacy without robbing the character of her spunk.

Susan Sarandon was perfect as Marmee-- exactly as I always pictured her when I was reading the books.

Arnold Winkelried
12-18-2006, 10:15 PM
I'll have to look it up, but I read somewhere (I am pretty sure that it was in the introduction of my Library of America copy of Little Women) that Louisa May Alcott intended for Jo March to remain an unmarried woman, but her publisher insisted that Jo find "happiness", so LMA choose a "humorous" (or she might even have used the word "ridiculous") match for for Jo.

Dangerosa
12-18-2006, 10:20 PM
I'll have to look it up, but I read somewhere (I am pretty sure that it was in the introduction of my Library of America copy of Little Women) that Louisa May Alcott intended for Jo March to remain an unmarried woman, but her publisher insisted that Jo find "happiness", so LMA choose a "humorous" (or she might even have used the word "ridiculous") match for for Jo.

That makes a hell of a lot of sense. If you can find a cite for that, I'd like it.

I was content with her not marrying Laurie, but it didn't really make sense for her to marry at all.

freckafree
12-18-2006, 10:31 PM
Caprese and Sonia, I'm glad you appreciate my choices. When your sister is an atheist and she wants you to read something at her wedding, you get creative! (We both love LW, so it worked beautifully.)

I use "It's your only beauty!" or more often, change it to "It's my only beauty!" whenever I get caught up in something trivial, like "I broke a nail ... and IT'S MY ONLY BEAUTY!" "The jelly won't jell !" is good whenever something simple isn't working.

LOL! I am immediately adopting these for my own use! (I always talk about "wicked quillies," but that's a LM reference.)

Has anyone else read Behind the Mask: The Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott? I thought the stories were just great!

Arnold Winkelried
12-19-2006, 12:56 AM
Dangerosa:
From The Library of America edition of Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys, edited by Elaine Showalter.
Note on the Texts (p. 1078)
In private letters, [Alcott] complained about one of the demands her publisher and her readers made of her for the sequel: her character Jo, she felt, "should have remained a literary spinster," but they wanted to see her arried. Alcott coplied, but made "a funny match" for Jo.
I think Alcott felt obligated to give her books commercial appeal; with the proceeds from her books she paid off the family debts and the short chronology in this edition says how she felt she "must be a father now" to her nephews and wrote "Little Men" in order to support them [the nephews].
But strong, independent Jo should have remained single. That would be more fitting to her character.

Arnold Winkelried
12-19-2006, 12:58 AM
"... wanted to see her married. Alcott complied ..."

Arnold Winkelried
12-19-2006, 01:12 AM
A couple more things: to confirm what teela brown said LMA's sister Lizzie (3 years younger) caught scarlet fever at the age of 21 from a poor family that the mother was taking care of, and died 2 years later.

I see that Lissla Lissar mentions the title "Good Wives". Little Women was written in two parts:
Little Women; or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy in 1868, and Little Women; or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy (Part Second) in 1869. LMA didn't get copyright in Great Britain and so several publishers reprinted it without her consent. The second part was given several new titles in England depending on the publisher, such as Little Women Wedded, Little Women Married, Nice Wives, or Good Wives. In 1880 both parts were published in a single-volume edition.

I remember being much confused as a youngster because my mother had an english edition of the first part of Little Women, and then Little Men. So I started reading Little Men without knowing what happened in the second part of Little Women, and it took me a while to figure out what happened to Laurie, why he wasn't married to Jo, and which sister he actually was married to, plus wondering how Beth died etc. I remember thinking that LMA should have done a better job of explaining what the hell was going on. Then I finally found a copy of Little Women that had both parts and all became clear.

Rilchiam
12-19-2006, 03:30 AM
I never knew that, Arnold! That actually explains a lot. As a kid, I never got past Part 1, and only knew of one other girl my age who did. I got into Part 2 as a teenager, which seems right, as the events in Part 2 are more complex (and depressing).

--- I don't get the Amy-hate. I agree that the scenes with her and Teddy in Europe are touching, showing a genuine friendship that develops into a courtship. And don't forget a) how he visited her so often when she was sequestered at Aunt March's, b) the scene where she draws him "as you are," [morose and slump-shouldered] as opposed to "as you were" [vital, reining in a spirited horse] and c) the scene where he arrives to escort her to a ball and is thunderstruck by the sight of her framed romantically by velvet drapes. And their proposal is every bit as touching as Jo and Bhaer's. "How well we pull together!" "So well that I wish we might always pull in the same boat."

--- And Jo had already made it clear to Teddy that she did not love him in that way. If she had done a 180 after that, I would have flung the book with great force. And I adore Friedrich; he is such a gentle soul.

--- I never really connected with Beth, to be honest. Didn't cry when she died; the person I cried for was Jo, who had such a hard time moving on. But there is one scene that resonated with me: when she tells Jo how the neighbor's baby died in her arms. One would think that fragile Beth would be the least well-equipped to deal with that, but on further reflection, she might be the most. She was certainly the most spiritual, after all.

--- One of my high-school teachers told us an anecdote about the first year she was married, when she bought a few yards of velvet, sewed it into a dress, and showed it to her husband, who looked at her aghast and said, "You can't do that! You've upset the budget!" I wanted to say, "That's really interesting...almost as interesting as when I read it in Little Women." Looking back, I probably should have.

--- LMA was very egalitarian, but I did detect a tiny bit of snobbery in the scene where Amy gets caught with the pickled limes. Before hitting her hand with the ruler (and I think it was the palm, not the knuckles. Neither tickles, but I'd still take palm over knuckles.) the teacher also made her throw the limes out the window, to the great delight of the Irish children outside, who either did not go to school, or perhaps attended public school, and that was supposed to be an extra bit of humiliation. Still, LMA was a product of her times, and "OMG s/he's Irish! Ack!" was quite prevalent in those days.

--- Perhaps it's because I'm looking at it from today's perspective, but I thought Jo's attachment to Meg in Part 1 was almost pathological. She hated John Brooke for no reason except that he was in love with Meg, and at one point even said, "I wish I could marry her myself and keep her in the family!" What was stopping her from wanting Meg to be happy, even if marriage did take her out of the house?

--- And I actually thought it was a bit callous of whoever said Jo's hair was "Your one beauty." Like, with her hair short she makes children run screaming in terror?

manx
12-19-2006, 03:44 AM
I see that Lissla Lissar mentions the title "Good Wives". Little Women was written in two parts:
Little Women; or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy in 1868, and Little Women; or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy (Part Second) in 1869. LMA didn't get copyright in Great Britain and so several publishers reprinted it without her consent. The second part was given several new titles in England depending on the publisher, such as Little Women Wedded, Little Women Married, Nice Wives, or Good Wives. In 1880 both parts were published in a single-volume edition.


Great googly-moogly! Bless you sir! I have an edition of Little Women that I've read at least a dozen times, and NOT ONCE in it does Beth die. And every couple of years, I read about poor Beth's tragic death in Little Woman. So I reread it, and nothing! AHAHA now I know - I only have half the damn book! Off to the bookshop.

Dangerosa
12-19-2006, 07:39 AM
Thanks Arnold. Jo's marriage always seemed to come from nowhere. I never understood why she would marry anyone when she wasn't willing to marry her best friend.

Lissla Lissar
12-19-2006, 09:11 AM
ivylass, the Christmas line is going to become traditional at the Lissar household. I was laughing so much that my husband came in and asked what I was reading. I explained the context, read the line, and fell about laughing.

He sighed.

I repeated it, and started laughing hysterically again.

He shook his head, and went back to bed.

Maybe I should read him Little Women.


Rilchiam, I sort of agree about Jo's reaction to Meg's marriage. I think it was excessive, but Jo was jealous, idealized her family, and was afraid of change, partly owing to her father's absence. Also, Jo really didn't want to grow up, and assume adult responsibilities, and follow stricter rules of behaviour. Meg's growing up frightened Jo, because it reminded her that her own happy childhood would soon end.

Lissla Lissar
12-19-2006, 06:29 PM
Did I kill this thread?

Stranger On A Train
12-19-2006, 07:36 PM
IMO, the chapters featuring Meg's domestic life with John were pretty useless.As was Meg in general, the most irritatingly facile character in the novel.

I thought it was tuberculosis. Wasn't described as having "consumption" (now called "TB") and having trouble breathing?"Victorian wasting disease". ;) But, as others have noted, more likely congestive heart failure and accompanying illnesses. They symptoms were certainly not those of tuberculosis.

Dopers, a number of feminist scholars these days think that LMA was a deeply closeted lesbian. Do you you think that the depth of feeling in the two passages that [B]freckafree quotes refutes this theory?I had this discussion with the coworker who forced the book on me (like a manly man like me is really going to voluntarily read a novel called Little Women :rolleyes: ); I was firmly convinced that she was a lesbian even before I read on the speculations that Alcott was. It's not just that she's not into Laurie--who is kind of fatuous and more of a pal than a lover--but the entire host of opinions, including her distress at her sisters getting married, and her lukewarm affections for the Professor, which was clearly more of an intellectual infatuation than anything driven by lust or romance.

I think Alcott felt obligated to give her books commercial appeal; with the proceeds from her books she paid off the family debts and the short chronology in this edition says how she felt she "must be a father now" to her nephews and wrote "Little Men" in order to support them [the nephews].
But strong, independent Jo should have remained single. That would be more fitting to her character.Actually, Alcott (through Jo) writes heavily on the topic of writing for profit as opposed to strictly for her art, and of course, Jo ends up writing explotative stories to provide money for her family. I can see how it wouldn't do to have Jo a permanent spinster, and marrying the Professor and "adopting" a houseful of boys is a way of mostly satisfying the need for Jo to be a material character while not really being too feminine or giving up autonomy. Despite the fact that Bhaer is significantly older than Jo and she has a great respect for him, she never really swoons over him or subordinates her will to him, as would be more typical in the pulpy chick-lit of the day. Not that this is a criticism; doubtless this is why (along with Alcott's marvelous prose) while the novel continues in popularity while similar work has disappeared into the mildewed pages of forgotten literature.

Stranger

SarahJean
04-14-2011, 02:05 PM
I must say I always felt that Beth had Rheumatic Fever because I had it as a child, following a strep throat and I knew how she felt. I was lucky; I got away without serious damage to my heart. But the tiredness, not wanting to be bothered with anything or anybody is considerable.
But many thanks for the information about how it works which nobody ever told either me or my mum.

I have to say I identified with Jo the bookworm and I'd have been disappointed if she ended up with Laurie. She needed an older man who gave her stability IMO; Friedrich was perfect!

I need to re-read this again!
I was lucky that the copy I grew up with was 'Little women and nice wives' which belonged to my great grandmother. I have subsequently found this was an 1880 edition so fairly venerable; it's a lovely book and one that is so nice to handle especially compared to my copy of Jo's Boys which is an austerity edition.

amarinth
04-14-2011, 03:11 PM
Oops, Zombie

dangermom
04-14-2011, 04:38 PM
Rilchiam, I sort of agree about Jo's reaction to Meg's marriage. I think it was excessive, but Jo was jealous, idealized her family, and was afraid of change, partly owing to her father's absence. Also, Jo really didn't want to grow up, and assume adult responsibilities, and follow stricter rules of behaviour. Meg's growing up frightened Jo, because it reminded her that her own happy childhood would soon end.

I agree. And I've known quite a few younger siblings who were quite annoyed at 'losing' a sister to marriage; it really isn't the same. (My own 8yo sister stomped on my new husband's foot once out of annoyance at his existence!)

Ruby
04-22-2011, 12:19 AM
Odd that this zombie would come back right now.

Somehow I've lived over 50 years without ever reading Little Women and just picked it up last week.

I've only just scratched the surface of the book but am fascinated by LMA's idea of womanhood in 1868. I'm not a scholar of the society of the mid 1800's but the common thought is that women were second class citizens whose most important thing is life is to catch and marry a well-heeled man. Mrs. March is clearly teaching her daughters a more "modern" lesson.

I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished and good. To be admired, loved and respected. To have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married and to lead useful pleasant lives with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send."

I'd rather see you poor men's wives if you were happy, beloved, contented than queens on thrones without self respect and peace

I've thought from the first few chapters that Jo was a closeted lesbian. Since it's my understanding that LMA wrote the character Jo from her personal perspective, it only stands to reason that she may have "teh ghay" as well. She's masculine in her manner and looks, prefers comfortable clothing over more girly things, hasn't developed a serious relationship with the opposite sex, really loves her cropped hair cut, and seems to be the only one in the family that can tolerate unmarried Aunt March. She's besties with the Laurie and she's independent and wants a career in a man's world. I absolutely love Jo!

I haven't seen the films yet but I'm anxious to finish the book! :)

Zoe
04-22-2011, 02:35 AM
A woman who owned a bookstore once told me that one of her friends is the great-granddaughter of the real "Meg" but has never read the book! I could just cry for her ignorance.

For those of you who have the opportunity to visit Concord, Massachusetts, take the time to go to Louisa Alcott's home. It won't take you long to realize that you are in the March house. "Amy's" paintings are on the wall in Beth's room. She drew them there to entertain Beth when she was ill. There are countless other surprises. Be sure to visit the place where LMA is buried in the town cemetery. It was quite moving.


My husband and I met about 26 years ago over our computers on a BBS just before the internet got into gear. When he sent me a photograph, my first thought was "Oh, there's my Professor Bhaer!" And he looked even more as I had imagined the professor when I met him in person.

delphica: And I always wanted to have a chapel in my closet.

I had one even though my closet was small. I'd just forgotten where I got the idea!

Did anyone here ever sleep it a clothespin on your nose to try to straiighten it out? I did! But it was too tight a fit.

My first exposure to Little Women was in 1949 when the movie came out. I just bawled when Beth died. I loved Margaret O'Brien. I went home and the next day picked out the little scarey piece that she played on the piano. That is the first thing that I can remember playing. I picked it out by ear.

I hope this particular thread keeps getting revived. May it never be completely a zombie!

twickster
04-22-2011, 07:05 AM
I recently read Susan Cheever's book on LMA, which I really enjoyed. Good look at the social and literary milieu of her life.

robert_columbia
04-22-2011, 06:00 PM
...What did Beth die of? I know she never fully recovered from scarlet fever...do we assume it was a weakened heart or cancer?
...


I always thought it was TB (i.e. "Consumption").

Zyada
04-22-2011, 06:45 PM
Re LMA and 'teh gay', there's an interesting quote on her wiki page:

She explained her "spinsterhood" in an interview with Louise Chandler Moulton, "because I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man."

I definitely think Prof. Bhaer/Jo relationship is the OTP. Laurie and Jo were buds, but he always seemed lightweight for Jo - she needed more someone who could ground her. Laurie needed the more social Amy to fit into his world.

salinqmind
04-23-2011, 02:57 AM
I love love love Little Women. My uncle gave me an elaborate hardcover version when I was 12, and I still have it. Back then I couldn't quite understand some of it (a charabanc? blancmange?) and popular-then references (Charles Dickens, Pilgrims Progress), and had to kind of guess. I wish my own daughter would read it but no go. her loss.:(
I wonder if people are still reading this book today, it seems it wouldn't be of much interest to kids who tweet and text, unless they had to read it for school. Which movie version do you like? It's said the one with Katherine Hepburn is the best, but I have a fondness for the later one with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy. Never saw the Winona Ryder one.

I think Beth died from heart failure after scarlet fever.

lshaw
04-24-2011, 02:10 PM
Dangerosa:
From The Library of America edition of Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys, edited by Elaine Showalter.
Note on the Texts (p. 1078)

I think Alcott felt obligated to give her books commercial appeal; with the proceeds from her books she paid off the family debts and the short chronology in this edition says how she felt she "must be a father now" to her nephews and wrote "Little Men" in order to support them [the nephews].
But strong, independent Jo should have remained single. That would be more fitting to her character.

It all makes sense now! I can't say I was the biggest fan of the novel, but I did like Jo's character. When Alcott married her off, it was a big WTF moment for me. I agree, independent Jo should have remained unmarried.

peedin
06-12-2011, 07:38 PM
Reviving to say as a result of the thread, I finished re-reading LW last week. I read it a few times as an adolescent and hated it (although I loved Meg Goes to Vanity Fair for the description of the clothes). I love Katharine Hepburn, but hated the movie. The version with Winona Ryder was o.k. And I was a member of the "I can't believe Jo didn't marry Laurie" camp. A few years ago I told my mother that I hated it because it was so sappy (although every year I sigh "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents/serpents). And my mother would say "it's such a good book" and be disappointed that I didn't like it.

So I checked it out of the library 4 weeks ago and started a re-read. And I'm kinda ashamed to say I have apparently matured and really like the book this go round. I finally understood it (I'm 53, so it too a few years). I get why Jo didn't marry Laurie, I get why I thought it was sappy, I was sad when Beth died. The writing was rather Victorian but it was good prose. I did skip a few parts like Pickwick Papers and Demi being naughty. Now I need to see the movies again. So thanks to this thread for giving the book another chance with me!

Dung Beetle
06-13-2011, 11:36 AM
"Meg Goes to Vanity Fair" is still my favorite chapter. :)

salinqmind
06-13-2011, 12:34 PM
I remember reading the chapter where Amy was sent to stay with Aunt March while Beth was ill. I was pretty young and tried writing out my very own will, like Amy did! I left my collection of horse figurines to my cousin, my ruby ring to my best friend, and my savings account to mom. Though I adored Jo, I found Amy, who was materialistic, artistic, and aspiring-to-be-sophisticated, very interesting. I was shocked when Laurie married her and not Jo, but now I can see that he was sort of the answer to Amy's dreams of leaving the middle class life. (still don't see what Jo saw in her hairy-bear old German professor - maybe Jo's being an author of thrillers was quite enough excitement for a woman, in Louisa May Alcott's mindset, and remaining an independent spinster was asking too much.)

Mongo Ponton
06-13-2011, 11:50 PM
I have LMA's inkwell sitting on my desk.

Inner Stickler
06-14-2011, 12:36 AM
maybe Jo's being an author of thrillers was quite enough excitement for a woman, in Louisa May Alcott's mindset, and remaining an independent spinster was asking too much.)I thought Alcott wanted her to be a spinster and was forced by her editor to add Bhaer or whatever his name was so as not to be quite so scandalous. I always figured Jo's frustration with chopping her stories up for editors to be Alcott's own opinion of her work.

salinqmind
06-14-2011, 10:06 AM
That's what I think, too. All proper Victorian women MUST be married!