Book 81: Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

There are few books that I finish reading and truly regret not having read them earlier in life, and this is one of them. However, I’m also glad I haven’t read it previously as I truly doubt I would’ve appreciated the story or the characters as much as I did.

I expected the reading to take longer than the last few books I read, but it didn’t. I discovered Alcott’s editors specifically requested a book for young women and this so she wrote Little Women.

I identified most with Jo, as I feel most people do but I could be wrong. Perhaps it is her often times uncouth and startlingly simple view of the world, of right and wrong, of black and white, but her character provides a great antithesis to all of the other sisters. And although she changes and has her own faults, to me, she shows the most humanness. And Alcott summed this up saying, “But, you see, Jo wasn’t a heroine, she was only a struggling human girl like hundreds of others, and she just acted out her nature, being sad, cross, listless or energetic, as the mood suggested” (loc 5977).

I don’t believe it was the expected tragedy that fully brought Jo into adulthood, but rather the unrequited (romantic) love. When faced with something as big and incomprehensible as this type of love, Jo realized she was not able to return it. Whereas with Beth, due to their spiritual believes, she knew they would be reunited.

If there was one thing that bothered me about the novel, it was the preachy-ness towards the end. It was almost as if Alcott decided, ‘oh no, I’ve created a novel with a strong female lead and with somewhat loose morals (when it comes to writing), I should reign her in!’ There wasn’t anything so explicitly moralistic that offended me, but I would definitely be wary of giving this to a young woman without any thought of explaining how women’s roles in society have changed drastically in the last 100+ years.

I hope I have time in the near future to read the follow-up novels Little Men and Jo’s Boys.

Recommendation: Read it with a grain of salt (clearly). Times have changed, but the story is still strong and the lessons of appreciating what you have are true.

Opening Line: “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

Closing Line: “Oh, my girls, whoever long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this!” (Whited out in case you don’t want to read it.)

Quotes from Little Women
“There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind.” (loc 522)

“Beth ceased to fear him from that moment, and sat there talking to him as cozily as if she had known him all her life, for love casts out fear, and gratitude can conquer pride.” (loc 861)

“Boys are trying enough to human patience, goodness knows, but girls are infinitely more so, especially to nervous gentlemen with tyrannical tempers and no more talent for teaching than Dr. Blimber.” (loc 897)

“There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long, even if it is, the consciousness of possessing and using it well should satisfy one, and the great charm of all power is modesty.” (loc 949)

“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. To be loved and chosen 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.” (loc 1329)

“Have regular hours for work and play, make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life become a beautiful success, in spite of poverty.” (loc 1622)

“No, he would have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” (loc 2866)

“Now and then, in this workday world, things do happen in delightful storybook fashion, and what a comfort that is.” (loc 2969)

“I wish it was as easy for me to do little things to please people as it is for you. I think of them, but it takes too much time to do them, so I wait for a chance to confer a great favor, and let the small ones slip, but they tell best in the end, I fancy.” (loc 4035)

“The dirt is so picturesque, so I don’t mind. The river and the hills are delicious, and these glimpses of the narrow cross streets are my delight.” (loc 5185)

“Don’t laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragic romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under the sober gowns, and many silent sacrifices of youth, health, ambition, love itself make the faded faces beautiful in God’s sight.” (loc 6054)

“Rich people have no right to sit down and enjoy themselves, or let their money accumulate for others to waste. It’s not half so sensible to leave legacies when one dies as it is to use the money wisely while alive, and enjoy making one’s fellow creatures happy with it.” (loc 6328)

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10 thoughts on “Book 81: Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

  1. I think Jo gets better as she ages too. 🙂 I think part of the “preachy” may have been a bit of guilt/sense of obligation on LMA’s part that she DIDN’T fit the mold she was supposed to fit in for that time. She never married, and her stated dream was to support herself as an author. If she hadn’t included the preachy, I wonder if she would’ve gotten published or dismissed as too “radical.” Anyway. Congrats on finally reading it!

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    • Definitely agree about LMA’s sense of propriety. To bad awesomeness was often limited by the times. I’m reading Little Men right now and Little Women was definitely the highlight so far.

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  2. I LOVE “Little Women.” I’ve probably read it 4-5 times and seen various different movie versions over the year.

    Jo is very much the heroine because she is “every girl.” Sure it would be nice to be as good as Beth, but she is so sick. Amy is such a petulant child. Meg is mousey. Jo was who I wanted to be – strong and stubborn and independent. But I was sick like Beth (thankful for modern day meds) and mousey like Meg. I’m sure I could be petulant as well. As a girl, I wanted to be Jo and have such a cozy, loving family with strong Transcendentalist values.

    I wonder if anyone has ever written a comparison of Lizzie Bennett and Jo March, hmmmmmm. I do have to say I much prefer Mr. Darcy over Professor Bhaer ; )

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    • It was a fascinating read and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t actually sat down and read it before now. I vaguely remember watching the film when I was younger, but that’s it.

      There has to be a comparison out there, and I believe there might be a cheeky one in part of a series called Uppity-Women. I think everyone prefers Mr. Darcy – although there is just something about Professor Bhaer that makes me smile. I think it’s the absentmindedness.

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