Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Little Women

I’m not the type who reads for emotion--I read for the story. I’m looking for plot over description; action over philosophy. I’ve always been this way; it’s how I plow through books so quickly and don’t do well in book clubs.

Because my joy resides in plot, I don’t read much into all the deconstructive actions taught in the classes I’ve taken. Can I pick themes to analyze, motives to dissect, and theories to critique? Of course I can. Do I choose to? Not unless a required 3-5 page paper looms over my semester’s grade. The books I read are still laden with literary elements worthy of discussion. It’s just not my cup of hobby tea.

(Clearly you feel the shift in this post coming, right? Classic method of writing; the historical set-up and then the shift that gives meat to the topic at hand.)

I purchased “Little Women” at Target several months ago but hadn’t found the time to join the millions of readers who have loved the March women since childhood. I’d seen the movie some years ago, and appreciated the visual framework laid by Winona, Claire, Kirsten, and Christian. The book is lengthy, and I’ve found myself on several bicoastal flights in the last few weeks.

Little Women is the party I’m devastated to be late to.

The book holds no major surprises if you’ve seen the movie. (Though to note, it’s been long enough since I’ve seen the movie that the central plot points were hazy in memory.) Where the book trumps the movie is where the heart lies, and that is not with the actual plot, but with the March sisters. Four girls, on the brink of maturation; relationships explored through the habits of daily living; textured with the joy and heartache caused by moving on and growing up.

A task no two-hour movie could ever hope to achieve.

Each character in the book has strength and goodness uniquely her own. In turn, she isn’t perfect—at times rash, cruel, or insensitive. Passionate yet flawed; able to hurt and be hurt. At heart, however, the reader always knew that “ a peaceful presence, invisible, but dearer than ever…could not break the household league that love made dissoluble.” Louisa May Alcott does a phenomenal job developing imperfectly loveable characters you can’t help but love perfectly.

And so it is with me.

Surely you know by now that I come from a family of four girls.

And surely you can understand why this book rocked my emotional core.

I cried when the eldest sister Meg left home to be married. I cried when Beth battled mysterious disease but carried on with a smile and grace that surpassed her years. I cried in the afterward describing how hard it must have been for Amy, the youngest, to caboose the order of such strong and differing personalities.

Mostly though, I cried for Jo, who wanted so desperately for time to freeze, and the dynamics of her nuclear family to stay the same; who for a time felt life happening around her, but never truly to her.

And the parents who ruled the roost were kind and just—they guided with firm but loving hands. Not as much is said about the March parents, but the qualities and “well-breeding” visible in each of the March sisters speaks volumes to who bore and raised these women. Their nature is implied with every movement each of the girls makes. Alcott spoke to my heart with the passage, (speaking of Jo) “…for the parents who had taught one child to meet death without fear, were trying now to teach another to accept life without despondency or distrust, and to use its beautiful opportunities with gratitude and power."

The Marches proved themselves to be a ‘league that love made dissoluble’. In time, Jo accepted the inevitable changes required of a household of sisters growing up. Of a little woman growing up. She accepted life without despondency or distrust. She created beautiful opportunities with gratitude and power. She learned to trust time.

I’m rediscovering my tender heart and learning to attach myself to characters in books.


JK said...

I like this post. Plot is important in storytelling in the sense that it catches the viewer/reader's attention, keeps things fresh from and different from other tales, and moves things forward. But otherwise it is a glorified vessel to promote the characters.

The whole goal in storytelling is to elicit emotions, and you are only going to do that by connecting real people to the plight of fictional characters. A great plot falls flat without good characters.

Nerak said...

You should TOTALLY read 'March' by Geraldine Brooks. It's fantastic. It won the 2006 Pulitzer for fiction.

It's baasically Little Women from the dad's point of view. I lololoved it.

ju said...

too bad you can't retroactively submit this post for your semester grade, because you'd for sure get an "A".

i love it!

Carly said...

I'm so glad you liked Little Women! You seriously almost had me crying from that quote! Man! I've also heard that "March" is good, but haven't read it myself. I definitely think you should read "Little Men" though! Especially if you like Jo and want to see what she grows up to become(well all the sisters really)! It's great!

Laura said...


That's all. I smiled a lot while reading your post. We have more in common than I knew.

Lainey said...

Oh, you make me want to read this.

AND you make me curious who would be who in our little girl family of four.

And I love the way you describe the parents (through her words.) Brilliant!

Thanks for taking the time to share.

Lainey said...

PS My Anita Stansfield latest pales in comparison.

Bags said...

It's driving me nuts! You need a darn RSS feed! I can't keep track of you if you don't have a feed... do you have a feed?

Definitely, maybe, probaby related posts:

If NatA! posted a photo with this blog, here it is!