This check-in post comes a bit late. I had planned to post it on the 15th, but things have a way of happening, don’t they? Especially at the start of a new semester!
I’m enjoying Little Women so far. It’s not exactly what I expected, but it also is entirely what I expected. Does that make any sense? No? Didn’t think so! Let me try to explain.
I think part of the reason why it has taken me so long to read this book, despite the fact that I know so many people who absolutely love it, is because I thought it would be too sentimental or too “children’s”-focused. I wasn’t worried that it was “chick lit” or “girly,” as I’ve come to despise those kinds of classifications (& because I learned a wicked lesson about such assumptions after reading Pride and Prejudice). But, part of me did expect that this book would be, well, “sweet.” And it is. Each of the chapters thus far (I’m only about 2/3 done) is a kind of episode and each episode seems to offer something less than ideal about one of its characters, only to resolve things with a “lesson learned.” Maybe I’m in for some surprises later in the book, but this is the pattern so far, anyway, and that’s what I expected. It’s (the didactic) not my preferred style of writing, especially when it is heavy-handed, but of course Alcott was trying to sell the book and this was the popular mode.
That being said, I am definitely enjoying the characters and the humor. If one is going to write in such a conventional genre, one can at least bring some unique personality to it. Alcott definitely does that! It’s clear that LMA is intimately familiar with these characters (they are fashioned after her own family members, after all). It’s also admirable, I think, that she presents Jo, the character she bases on herself, so honestly. I understand why so many readers find her an attractive character: filled with great intentions, but flawed, too.
My two favorite chapters so far are Chapter 10, “The P.C. and P.O.” and Chapter 12, “Camp Laurence.” I like Chapter 10 because, well, I love books and language and reading and writing. What person with these interests wouldn’t love this chapter? The girls (and Laurie) create their own newspaper fashioned after Dickens’s Pickwick Papers. Their stories, reports, poems, etc. are creative and fun. I generally enjoy the meta-narrative as a device, and this styling of it, in particular, really seems to suit the girls and their personalities. I envy their imaginations!
Chapter 12, the beach outing with Laurie’s other friends, is also great fun. I particularly loved the way that Jo and Fred kept bickering (Fred completely deserving Jo’s criticisms!). And the story-telling section, where they play a game called “Rig-marole” is really enjoyable, especially, again, for someone who loves reading and storytelling. I can remember playing similar games when I was a kid, though we didn’t have a name for it. Someone would begin a story and each person would have to build upon it. The iteration in Little Women is especially interesting because each character injects a different kind of genre into the story, making it both absurd but also, somehow, quite smart.
I would love to hear what those of you who are reading along are thinking about the book so far. Is this your first read, or a re-read? If you’re re-reading it, have you caught anything new? Appreciating anything different this time? Changing your opinions?
I’m trying to decide which of the characters I most relate to (don’t we love those little quizzes — “Which March girl are you?”) but I haven’t made up my mind, yet. I think I’m quite a bit like Laurie, actually, but also a strange blend of the girls. I’ll have to wait until I finish these last 100 pages before I can really make up my mind. Which character do you enjoy the most, or feel most personally connected to?
- Reading/Discussion Questions will be posted on January 27th!
- My final thoughts/review to come on January 31st.
- February 1st we begin reading Sophocles’s Three Theban Plays.