A fresh look at an old favorite

27 Jan

Recently (a few weeks ago, actually), I finished reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Okay, it wasn’t of my own free will. It was a school assignment, but bear with me here.

When I was small, probably no older than 8, my parents read it to me. Most of the story must have just bounced off me, because I didn’t remember much. Laurie, being a boy (I was still in my cooties phase), was instantly dismissed as unimportant. I related most to Amy, if only because she’s the youngest. In fact, the only event in the story that stuck with me was Amy’s pickled lime incident. Okay, I’m sure I thought, I know about school. I don’t have sisters, and there’s not a boy- ew- next door. But I’ve been to school!

Now, more than half a decade later, I picked up Little Women again, not remembering much and not expecting much. From those iconic first lines, I “knew” each March girl instantly.

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

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got father and mother and each other,” said Beth contentedly, from her corner.

I instantly fell in love with Little Women. Eventually– probably around the transition from Part First to Part Second– I started reading ahead of the assigned chapters to figure out what happened. I was foregoing my snappy, fast-paced fantasies for a dusty old assigned classic in my free time. Can you imagine that?

I’ll admit that Little Women does have its faults, at least in the eyes of the modern audience. It is a bit sentimental, and the story is liberally sprinkled with Victorian morals about shouldering our “burdens” and being grateful for what we have. Today’s girls probably find the childish antics and “I’ve learned my lesson” attitude of the March girls unappealing. I’d advise anyone having a tough time with Little Women to stick with it for a while. You’ll be grateful that you read it, in the end. Hopefully you’ll have enjoyed it a little. If anything, you’ll be more well-versed in literature.

If reading Little Women is a school assignment, well, sorry, I can’t help you with that. But if you just want to learn the story and can’t stand the book, why not consider watching a movie adaptation? I recommend the 1994 version, one of my own favorite movies. It’s excellent and keeps the sentimentality to a minimum. Maybe after watching the movie, you’ll want to read the book– a great strategy for parents and teachers to get their kids to read classics.

Okay, so say I convinced you to read Little Women. I hope I have. The perennial question girls ask each other once they’ve read the book is, “Who do you think I’m most like, Meg, Jo, Beth, or Amy?” There’s ladylike Meg, tomboyish, literary Jo, quiet, gentle Beth, and artistic, romantic, Amy. Most people tell me I’m like Jo because of my reading and writing, but my mother says that my personality is most like Amy’s.  I’ll take her word for it. If you can imagine a girl who has Jo’s interests and Amy’s personality, that’s me!

I wouldn’t have missed reading Little Women again for the world. I’m now a devotee. There’s an indefinable something about it that has managed to capture the heart of a reader of adventures and make her appreciate the real world, too. But don’t get me wrong– I’m still a fan of “sensation stories,” as Jo might have said!

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Posted by on January 27, 2011 in Book Rambles


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