Have You Ever Read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott?
My dad read it to us when I was around eight years old, after my mom protested his reading Zane Grey’s western romances to her innocents. Neither would she stand for “The Hobbit” and its swords and goblins at our young age (eventually we all eroded her objections to Tolkein and had the privilege of being raised on Dad’s winter night readings of all Tolkein’s major works…and I later smuggled Zane Grey into my bedroom to read All By Myself.
But back to Louisa May and “Little Women”. After Mom’s anti-Zane and Bilbo protests, Dad rolled his eyes, heaved a long sigh, and, stoic and slightly sarcastic, began reading Alcott’s “An Old Fashioned Girl” to us. By the second chapter, he was smitten, and Mom was vindicated. We heard “Little Women” immediately after he finished “Old Fashioned”. I have read “Little Women” many times since.
What are your favorite parts of “Little Women”?
I’m trying to think of mine…and honestly, as sad as they are, I think my favorite parts are the closing scenes with Beth, though I really, really love the whimsically romantic scene with Jo and the Professor almost at the end. While some of Alcott’s passages (particularly in “An Old Fashioned Girl”) might lapse into sentimentality and sermonizing, when she wrote about Beth, she was writing what she knew. Those passages are natural, beautiful, real, and heartbreaking. I cry every time I read them, and writing this now, I long for my own sisters.
Another favorite aspect of the book is how she develops her characters through setting and plot. For instance. My understanding of Meg, Jo, and Amy (and Beth too) deepen as the sisters are invited to balls and strategize their wardrobes.
Which leads naturally to the point of my post: A Prom dress for Jackie. A Little Women Moment.
Well, Yeah! By now it should be obvious that all my roads lead to dresses!
(Who on earth, by the way, has Prom in winter? When the world is frozen white? I thought Prom was synonymous with Spring, and soft, warm, kissy breezes!).
Jackie is a daughter of a friend of mine, and the middle sister of three. Louisa would have nodded her approval at how tight these Little Women are, and would sympathize with how they weather tough times together (Jackie was three when her mom had her first open heart surgery; she’d sit for hours by her mother’s side, afraid of losing her). Crossing their threshold, I have a sense that I’ve entered the super-charged realm of a girl-tribe. They are fiercely protective of each other; they can also be tender in their nurture. Jackie’s older sister reminds me of Jo: independent with delightful counter-establishment ways (beginning with her brightly unmatched socks). Jackie’s younger sister might be Amy-ish in her little-sister piquancy, and in her devotion to candy… and animals. And Jackie. Reserved and quiet until she’s certain she’s safe with you (at which point, if you’re very lucky, she might become the invisible prankster), and generous almost to a fault, Jackie reminds me both of Beth and a little of Meg—Beth in her intense vulnerability, Meg in her elegant stateliness.
My friend asked me to help with Jackie’s Prom dress. I love…and am honored…to be a part of this household’s wardrobe strategizing. It is like being invited to the March’s…experiencing the adventure of shared gloves and scorched skirts. In return for my help with Jackie’s dress, I asked for permission to feature her in a post, which she happily gave (I cannot tell you how rewarding her happiness was).
What do you think? Can you picture Jackie as a beautiful Meg? Or as Beth, finally able to dance?