L.M. Alcott and Little Women

I have a set of L.M. Alcott books that were my AMom’s. They are all matched, except for Little Women. The matched books have red cloth covers with black letters and a green band just under the title. They have a sort of art-decoish feel to them and look very nice together on the shelf. The copy of Little Women that always sits with the nicely matched set is very different. It has a dust jacket. It is bigger than the other books. It has mostly green in the cover, plus a cheesy cover illustration of the sisters standing around the piano with Marmee playing and the girls singing. The dust-jacket is tattered and mended with green duct tape, but I’d much rather have the mended jacket on than off. The cloth cover underneath would clash with the nicely matched red volumes much more than the taped-up paper jacket. It turns out that I’ve read the mis-matched volume a lot more than the rest of the nice-looking matched set.

I do like this book, but the last few times I’ve read it, I’ve been disappointed by its theology. Possibly this is just an indication that I’ve been reading a lot more theology in general lately. I think my biggest issue with LW is the apparent Christianity of the book. It seems to be theologically sound, but the more I poke the less I’m convinced. The first part follows a Pilgrim’s Progress sort of theme, and the second part reflects on the idea of reaping what you sow, which is clearly from the Bible. But. But it seems like grace is missing. Everyone becomes better through effort. Works are important. Faith, and a clear object of that faith, is not.

[If you haven’t read Little Women be warned that there’s a spoiler or two in the next paragraph and avert your eyes.]

True confessions about this book: I don’t always re-read the whole thing, I dip into favourite bits. I do like Jo’s pet rat in the attic. (What? There’s a pet rat? Really, there is! I’d forgotten that and the rat popped out and surprised me the last time I read the whole thing.) I’m rather glad that Amy and Laurie end up together. Aunt March is great. I’m afraid I find the whole John and Meg thing a bit tiresome, so I tend to skip them when doing a good bits re-visit. I love the “Friends” episode where Joey reads this book and someone tells him Beth dies before he gets there. “Beth Dies?!?!” he yells, all distraught. Great scene.

[spoiler alert off.]

If you haven’t read Alcott, you probably should give her a try. It is 19th century writing, but it is well done. I’d be interested to hear what you think of my take on the theology in the book. Let me know.

1 Comment

Filed under fiction

One response to “L.M. Alcott and Little Women

  1. I’d be entirely with you on the heavy emphasis on works in Little Women if it weren’t for Jo and Mr. Bhaer. The way he treats her and their eventual house of boys seems to me (and I’m also looking through the lens of Eight Cousins and Alec’s relationship with Rose) to be full of grace, and specifically opposed to the flavour (there’s that word again) of the March family.

    Maybe I’m interpreting earlier works through the lens of later works, and maybe that’s a no-no, but I know that’s why I do my enjoy re-reads of little women I’m usually just waiting to get to Mr Bhaer.

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