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Big Books (Little Women) Forum

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Welcome to Little Women
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-03 15:38:43
Link to this Comment: 5261

This new forum is a place to discuss your initial reactions to Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Eric's already said he doesn't think he can handle any more estrogen than what he picked up in the first 50 pages; Kati also asked me today if we can really fill two weeks of discussion w/ the book. Let's keep that question open, as you begin reading: what do you think? How does this girls' growing up book look to you now, on re-reading, and in light of the boys-NOT-growing-up book we just finished?

reading little women
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-04-03 22:17:37
Link to this Comment: 5265

whenever i tell people that i'm reading little women they gasp and say in a very high speed excited voice that could break glass, 'Oh my God i love that book. i read it when i was a little girl.' it's a little awkward after i get this response when i have to mutter 'oh;' because to say the least i am not as enthusiastic. i did not read it when i was little; my father had to cater to a six year old girl AND her four year old brother who was unable to sit through story books on the exciting lives of knights, dragons, and monsters let alone an epic novel about the lives of four girls going to tea and playing piano. maybe the glee shown at the mere mention of the book is due to nostaligia for a text only known in the mind of a young girl. when i start to speak about the abundance of cliches and bland characters i can see my friendship status dramatically dropping in the eyes of my nostaligic friends. so, to preserve friendship and having a genuine interest in knowing why people like bad writing, i ask, 'so, why do you like it?' Biting greedily at the outstretched question they answer something about revolutionary writing in a time that was so ristricting to women, alcott as the first real feminist, beautiful characters ect. etc. the only response i have to statements like these is the name of a woman encrusted in the same time period who puts alcott to shame:
EMILY DICKINSON. first reaction to the book is: i hope to goodness that some meat is put onto the characters of these puny women.

very LITTLE women
Name: Natalie Ab
Date: 2003-04-05 20:26:32
Link to this Comment: 5274

As I am re-reading this, I am struck at how childish the characters are, even Jo and Meg, who are supposedly teenagers. My only guess is that Alcott was really writing this as a book for children, and wasn't sure that children would be interested in the trials of teenagers. She instead sets up this idealized family utopia. I'm also wondering where this falls in the realm of "instructional" literature for children, where writers wrote with specific morals they wanted to impart to their readers.
Can we say melodrama?!?
Orah is right in that Emily Dickinson is amazing, and I hope we have a chance to read some of her poetry this semester.
All my criticisms aside, I'm not sorry or (too) aghast that this was one of my favorite books growing up.
Another point...this is interesting to juxtapose with Huck Finn, in that they were both written as children's books; Huck Finn isn't neat and tidy in the way that Little Women seems to be--what does this mean? How do we judge the literary merit of a children's book??

3 generations of criticism
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-06 17:57:52
Link to this Comment: 5282

I've put on e-reserves three articles (representing three different generations) of critical commentary on Little Women: Nina Auerbach's 1978 essay on "Communities of Women," my 1985 essay on "The Education of Men in Little Women," and a 1999 piece by Gus Stadler (of the Haverford English Department) on "Louisa May Alcott's Queer Geniuses."

A more subtle experience
Name: Emily
Date: 2003-04-07 15:01:22
Link to this Comment: 5295

"Louisa May Alcott clings stubbornly throughout her novel to the primary reality of physical things. In her world people can decipher character and mood instantly by subtle shifts in faces, bearing, eyebrows, clothes...When the physical body is so insistently alive there are no barriers to intimacy but time and death."

I think this point made by Auerbach explains why Little Women is worth reading. Although I agree that the plot is not especially exciting and the characters are not wildly amusing, what we experience from reading Little Women is in-depth personality analysis. In Huck Finn and certainly Moby Dick, the books were so action packed that it didn't matter if we knew all about the characters involved. We knew that Ahab wanted to kill the whale and we knew that Huck liked adventures, but did we really know the characters themselves? In Little Women we may not experience great drama but its more subtle character development is what I think makes this book a classic.

A more subtle experience
Name: Emily
Date: 2003-04-07 15:08:14
Link to this Comment: 5297

"Louisa May Alcott clings stubbornly throughout her novel to the primary reality of physical things. In her world people can decipher character and mood instantly by subtle shifts in faces, bearing, eyebrows, clothes...When the physical body is so insistently alive there are no barriers to intimacy but time and death."

I think this point made by Auerbach explains why Little Women is worth reading. Although I agree that the plot is not especially exciting and the characters are not wildly amusing, what we experience from reading Little Women is in-depth personality analysis. In Huck Finn and certainly Moby Dick, the books were so action packed that it didn't matter if we knew all about the characters involved. We knew that Ahab wanted to kill the whale and we knew that Huck liked adventures, but did we really know the characters themselves? In Little Women we may not experience great drama but its more subtle character development is what I think makes this book a classic.

Little Women Part 1 Assignment for tomorrow
Name: Monica Loc
Date: 2003-04-07 20:00:58
Link to this Comment: 5298

Hi Big Bookers!
I just sent out an email about tomorrow's class but since I have not received it in my own mailbox, I don't think it was sent properly. I sent another one but since I have been having email problems, I will post the assignment online so everyone will be able to get hold of it. For tomorrow, Samantha and I would like you all to read the three articles Anne has posted on ERESERVES.If you go to you'll find three articles
of critical commentary on Little Women: Nina Auerbach's 1978 essay on "Communities of Women," Anne's 1985 essay on "The Education of Men in Little Women," and a 1999 piece by Gus Stadler (of the Haverford English Department) on "Louisa May Alcott's Queer Geniuses."

We would also like everyone to think about a scene in the first part of Little Women which has been the most appealing. If you have seen the movie, think about how the book differs from the way the story is conveyed in the movie. See you all tomorrow and have a good night!

Take care,

Monica and Samantha :)

Little Women
Name: Monica Loc
Date: 2003-04-07 20:16:06
Link to this Comment: 5299

When Little Women was part of the selection of books we had to choose from in Big Books I was really excited because everyone I knew who read it thought it was a really great book. Yes, I think it is a good book but for some reason it is not as exciting as I thought it would be. It is a book I would have enjoyed reading in Middle school or High school. After reading The Scarlet Letter and Huck Finn, I just expected Little Women to have more conflict and excitement. This is the beginning of the book, so I cannot really judge the whole story. I just hope it gets better because there has to be more than all this drama and a story about the three girls. Samantha and I planned an interesting discussion for tomorrow and hopefully everyone will be able to participate. I look forward to reading more of the story and seeing if any action happens soon.

i like it
Name: Kati Donag
Date: 2003-04-07 22:06:08
Link to this Comment: 5304

I read Little Women for the first time when I was 13. I liked the book then but I wasn't as crazy about it as some of the girls I knew. When I began the book last week I asked Anne what we were going to do with it for a whole two weeks, I didn't think that the text warranted or could support that much time.

Now for the retraction statement: I'm half way through the book and I think I'm actually enjoying it more this time than when I was 13. My arguements against the book last week were that the 4 March daughters were such blatant stereotypes and that Marmee was like a narrator doing a voice-over on morals. Those problems are still there, but as embarassing as it is....I'm finding the girls so darn endearing that I'm liking the book. I'm really intruiged by Anne's idea that the book is not the model for the behavior of "Little Women", but instead for the instruction of the "Little Men" they encounter. On another note, I can relate to Orah's having to sit through little boy adventure stories and missing out on Little Women as a child (I also have a younger brother). So to that statement and my parents I ask, why is it okay for me to listen and relate to these "boys" stories, while it's not okay for my brother to hear "girls" stories"? Hmph. I think mom and dad are getting a complaint call.

chasing genious
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-04-07 22:51:32
Link to this Comment: 5306

its so great to read other, more insightful, people's commentary on writing that you intitially thought bad. i still think that 'little women' is bad writting but articles like stadler's make me read more hopefully, in search of quality writing in the future pages of 'little women.'i am very intriged by his concept of genius in the away message tonight was "did you know that the latin root of the word genius means male fertility?" i didn't know that. i am also interested in the idea that the inspiration for writing is the true genious behind good beth is the true genious behind jo's writing...and keates the true genious behind alcott's writing. it was also interesting to read about other writing of alott's. i'd like to read her story about Kent and St. George. it seems possible, though i haven't read it yet, that kent is to beth as st. george is the jo. Kent is the real genious behind the writing, as beth is the real genious behind jo's writing. though in the story kent is the writer while beth is just the inspiration, alcott seems to equate the two, as she equates herself, jo, to st. george. she is saying that a writer is just a pretty face on the genious that inspires writing. i don't know if i agree with that...i have to think about it. it makes me think of the line in keruac's 'on the road,' "then they danced down the streets like dingledoodies, and i shambled after as i've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn of say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders accross the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes, 'awww!'" yes, another lame excuse to quote good writing, but this is a good excuse: keruac seems to have this same notion that the true genious lies in the impetus for the writing and not in the writing itself. keruac shambles after the beats as jo shambles after beth, as alcott shambles after keats. i don't know if i agree...i have to think about it. but, i do think that history shows that it is the writers who are remembered as geniouses. is holden caulfield remembered as a genious or salinger? salinger. holden caulfield is a boy with a genious ache within him...but, he is not the one to express it in words. it is the one who can tame this ache into words. who is the genious of the peqoud? ahab? or ishmael? ishmael is the only one who can fit the whiteness of the whale into to words. moby dick cannot be captured by any human manufactured objects except for words. moby dick is fit into the novel. ishmael, the writer, is the genious. as stadler says at the end of his article 'genious is relationality...genious is embedded in the social.' genious is in the ability to express the essence of this genious, to make those without understand...the genious is in the writing, the taming of the wild. THE END.

Little Women all grown up
Name: Jillian
Date: 2003-04-08 01:56:20
Link to this Comment: 5314

I read LW for the first time when I was 12, and I absolutely loved it! I remember crying when Beth died and being so excited because that was the first time a book had made me cry and I remember being really upset that I didn't have any sisters. When I started reading LW again for class, I was really disappointed. I felt, like a lot of other people, that LW was a poorly written book with weak characters. However, after reading the critical essays, I realized that I was reading LW incorrectly. I think I was trying to recapture that childhood awe and excitement for the characters and story line that I felt in middle school. However, almost a decade later, I find that my expectations as a reader are much higher. I'm not going to be satisfied with just an interesting story-line. After reading the critical essays - especially Auerbachs, and Anne's response to Auerbach - the idea of looking at LW through a critical lens and engaging the text in a literary discussion hit me. I then read the second quarter of LW and found I enjoyed it much more when I focused on gender relationships. I think books grow in proportion to its reader. The LW I read this week is not the same book as the one I read in 6th grade. We should be careful before dismissing LW as a 'little girl's' book. The lesson I learned this week is that flexibility is a really important characteristic for a reader to have, especially when rereading childhood favorites.

Enjoying what Little Women has to offer
Name: Margaret
Date: 2003-04-08 15:12:02
Link to this Comment: 5327

As I continue to read Little Women, I am finding the novel more and more addictive. I say addictive because I cannot put it down; I find myself emmersed in the story of these girls. I can relate to them, and that says something about its classification as a classic.
Should we read it in college today? I would argue yes. If anything, from what we (mainly Anne) spoke about in class today, it is a sufficient interpretation of Puritan salvation, and what christians should strive to accomplish while alive. I am Jewish, yet I still find the blatent morals of Marmee as a sort of refresher for life. It doesn't hurt or anger me to listen as if I am one of the "little women" too. I relate to aspects of the girls, which thus sucks me into the book, and I can then listen to Alcott's interpretation of all she saw important in "A Pilgrim's Progress." So, she is successful for me.
Why would this book be considered "bad writing" to you, Orah? Overly sentimental? Too melodramatic? What makes you think so? Just a question...

answer to M.
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-04-08 16:04:52
Link to this Comment: 5328

i have never read a book so packed full of untoughtout cliches. there is no refreshing language. beth is perfect, NOT human. this non-human perfection is idealized...saying that everyone should try to acheive this perfection...deny their humanity. i think good writing embodies the struggle of the human mind...there is no struggle within beth...that is not realistic. jo's "struggle" is that of a whining girl who wants the image of a tourtured writer...which i'm sure produces crap. granted i have not gotten to the part when her sister dies...i have some hope that this will improve the novel.
does allcott expect every human to cry hysterically at the death of a little cannary, as beth does? she idealises this sorrow. i don't think that allcott knows what she is saying. if every human was as sensitive as beth than everyone would commit suicide, because there are much more painful things happeneing in the world. that's my answer to margaret's Q.

on another note i am sorry if i insulted anyone today by saying that allcott's idea that this world is just a stepping stone to the next is false. anne is right: i cannot say that. it was inappropriot. just because that is not my religious beleif does not mean that i have to impose that into the classroom. i apologize.

reading little women
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-04-08 16:25:28
Link to this Comment: 5329

although I uncertain as to how to speculate the novel, i did enjoy reading the first part. it plays out like reading a fairy tales story...where there is an a reader you emerge into the text and take on the text as it presents itself... i like the simple joy of reading, the way children read and enjoy the text...

of course, reading the criticism adds to the reading ...but i am not sure how...

Name: kathy
Date: 2003-04-08 23:57:46
Link to this Comment: 5334

Margaret's post perfectly describes how I have been reading Little Women, I was definitely glad to hear someone else read it that way. I was excited to get to read the book, a nice break from my history reading (All Quiet on the Western Front)... and it was "refreshing" to be reminded of those moral standards. The most fascinating thing to me in class today, though, was that I realized how much my Christian upbringing might be affecting how I view the world, how I see my future, and how I value this book (including the character of Beth) differently from others. Also... Although I did not read the book as a child, I'm glad I'm reading it now, because I think I have an appreciation for that process of growing up and making decisions about life that I might not have had as a child.

Well, what can I say...
Name: Taka Kawan
Date: 2003-04-09 02:22:01
Link to this Comment: 5335

OK, I will be honest here. After reading the first quarter of the book, I was totally overwhelmed by those stereotypical ggirlishh figures of the characters. Frankly, I could not stand all those description of clothes people were wearing, crying and sobbing in every other page, and the "ideal" figure and world that lie throughout the book. Overall, I guess I could not synchronize the details of story with my experience as a non-religious male with two younger brothers, and I have not been able to enjoy this book. Todayfs class actually helped me to find some objectives in reading this book. It would be much more efficient for me to read in the context of underlying Puritanical premises, education of children, etc, while I am still interested in the relevance of categorization of books as ggirlfsh or gboyfsh stories as I did.
The person I paid most attention to was Mrs. March, and I was recalling the text gOn the Domestic Education of Childrenh written by Judith Sargent Murray in 1790. It was about women in Colonial Period establishing a political position in household; together with the separation of gpublich and gprivateh, it was their exclusive role to raise the future president of the United States while baking breadc Here, mother is the representative figure in the house while father is not really playing a role in private setting, and this is what Ifve seen in the first half of novel, while character like Jo is significantly different from the lady in Colonial Period. Little Women was written 88 years after this article, and I am expecting to see more changes in the household figures, which would hopefully raise my motivation to read this book.

we're all different :)
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-04-10 00:05:15
Link to this Comment: 5342

random thought: i've been wondering why i have been hating little women so much more than everyone else...and i think it is because each individual in our class has a different experience in life. yes, orah, that's right...but, there's a point. i am taking a poetry class at haverford..we're reading wilfred owen...a world war one poet. owen is very intense, he talks about insanity, and death, and just lots of intense thing. and then i have to go read little women which is probebly the most serene book there is..and incomparison to owen it is such a dissipation of intensity of life. like those vets who were in war and when they come abck they just can't stand not being in such an intense place and they actually want to go back to the palce where their life is in danger. i feel the intensity of life within owen's writting and then i have to read little women in which they have time to figure things out about life...soldiers do not have time for this. i guess i am thick and need the peirce of life in one moment, one poem, rather than a 500 page book spaned accross a lifetime.

modern perspective
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-04-10 12:03:39
Link to this Comment: 5345

after having the opportunity to examine (briefly) of today's girls/women growing up experience...i am not sure if we've have moved so far from the time the novel took place... in fact, i feel that the difficulties/challenges/obstacles/oppressions girls/women fact become even more apparent in today's world. it is almost like...when we have more opportunity to hope to dream...the more we realize how difficult it is to achieve/reach that ideal/goal...

Name: Maggie
Date: 2003-04-10 15:30:23
Link to this Comment: 5348

This is just an amalgamation of thoughts I have written down in my notes since we've begun talking about Little Women.

For the first half of the book, although I noticed the religious themes (how could I not??) I was not frustrated with the overtly religious lessons until we discussed it in class. After they did bother me, I wondered what had made me NOT be irritated while reading it on my own. I think it might have to do with that although their struggles are 'Christianized', they don't have to be. Anyone can have a temper like Jo's and feel the pressure (desire?) to change it, whether they are religious or not. Amy can be equated with any girl who knows it is wrong to be selfish and vain, and that has nothing to do with God. While religiously themed works generally bother me immensely, I feel like Little Women is somehow crossing over and still reaching me in a secular way. But I also wasn't reading it with such dependence on Pilgrim's Progress until later. If Alcott was writing it as a model for Christianity, was it purposefully aimed at children as a moralized story? I'm pretty sure that most children wouldn't get those themes...

On Tuesday, Kathy and Kati were put to the task of defending Beth... I feel like everyone was misrepresenting her. She is shy, yes, and didn't have many ambitions. But everyone (defenders and attackers alike) kept saying that she 'wanted to be left alone.' I don't see Beth in any way as anti-social. She in no way wanted to be a hermit and left alone. Quite the contrary- she practically lived for her family.

We didn't have time to discuss much about the two video clips that we watched today in class. I wanted to point out the very interesting difference between Marmee's speeches after the dance scene. Although the earlier version changed who heard the cruel comments, and Marmee's knowledge of the event, Marmee still talked about class differences and marrying for money versus marrying for love. The 1994 version kept the plot the same, but softened the remarks. And instead of discussing the issue of using marriage to improve class, Marmee talked to the girls about gender equality. Did anyone else think that was an interesting shift? As though the creators of the later film thought that gender equality was more relevant (and would reach more of their audience?) than "marrying up". In context of the book, I feel like that is a pretty significant change.

how i feel about our "little women" ...
Name: Nicole Mar
Date: 2003-04-10 15:35:23
Link to this Comment: 5349

Is it wrong to enjoy a book because it does NOT challenge you? I hope not. I am really enjoying reading Little Women for many of the reasons that my fellow classmates are disappointed in the book. The book can be preachy and the characters are stereotypes, but in a way that comforts me. I can see myself a little in all of them (well - not so much Beth - I find her to be too pious and just plain BORING. but i digress). I can identiy with Meg and her struggles involving class and wanting more while still appreciating what she has. I can identify with because she is somewhat selfish (yes - i can be selfish, can't we all?).

And Jo. Aren't all us "independent young women" supposed to identify with the free spirited Jo? I enjoy seeing her cross social boundaries (like cutting her hair) and having a boy for a best friend. I like that she wants to help support her family. But it annoys me that Alcott allows Jo to do this in a masculine way, and not a feminine manner. We are always told, as readers, that Jo identifies more with boys than girls. Are we to suppose that to be indepent and female are so incongruent that for a "little woman" to be so she must identify more as a man then a woman?

I feel that the (nearly) all female sphere is an important one and enjoy being submersed in it in this easy to read book. Having two sisters myself, I am somehow drawn to this world that Alcott has created. It's comfortable and secure - back to the fact that it doesn't particularly challenge me. But I like that. If I ever have a daughter I would like her to read this book as a child - the way i did - just to evoke this feeling that i have been trying to describe. I think it is am important book because it is a female book writen my a woman in a time when female authors are all to rare (in my opinion). Little Women is a feel good book that is bringing me a little joy (and with my thesis due in 8 days who is going to begrudge me that?).

reading and running
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-04-10 16:13:19
Link to this Comment: 5350

i've ginven up on trying to limit how many times i post....i post whenever i should be doing other work, but don't want to. so the psych quiz and the csem paper will just have to wait till i'm done thinking about litterature.
yes, i think it is okay to like a book because it doesn't challenge you. one of my personal gods ((as anne would say))dedicates a book as follows: "if there is an amateur reader still left in the world-or anybody who just reads and runs- I ask him or her, with untellable affection and gratitude, to split the dedication of this book four ways with my wife and children."
to say the least this book ((Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters and Seymour an Intoduction))is not dedicated to me. but, if i could change the anatomy of my brain i would so that such affection as is relayed in this dedication would be bestowed on me:)

Education in Little Women
Name: Natalie Ab
Date: 2003-04-10 19:01:10
Link to this Comment: 5351

I found it interesting that while Jo's "genius" is greatly admired, and each girl does seem to strive towards a higher level of learning, the issue of education itself is really never addressed except when it comes with negative consequences (Amy's humiliation, etc.). In a way that goes with the issues related to the transcendentalist ideals we talked about today. While the communal society in which the March girls live in is conducive to forming strong family bonds, Alcott seems to be arguing that intellectual development can only be achieved when alone (ie Jo going off to the attic to write; realizing that she has an intellectual side only when she leaves her family and falls under the influence of the Professor). This is in sharp contrast to the girls' spiritual development, which is very communal through Marmee's many sermons. This is opposite from what many people would argue today (whether or not it is accurate), but it does make some sense given transcendentalism (I'm a little confused Alcott's argument regarding spiritualism/religion as communal, given the transcendentalist focus on the individual).

Little Women
Name: barbara
Date: 2003-04-12 12:44:43
Link to this Comment: 5355

In class we talked a little about the different tone of Little Women as opposed to Moby Dick, the hormone difference, I guess. I think that both Stowe and Alcott write very differently to Melville and Twain because women are not so afraid of expressing their feelings. I noticed in Little Women that Laurie mentions not having a mother, an absence that he misses. Mothers do talk more intimately with their children than most fathers do, in spite of Alcott's lecture to Meg to have John participate in the children's upbringing. I have actually enjoyed rereading Little Women, and I particularly enjoyed seeing both videos back to back. But most people I talk to who have seen the two versions prefer the early one, and I wonder why? Nostalgia? I also thought the gender issues in the more recent video noteworthy. Alcott must have been outraged about that since she became the bread winner of the family, and Armstrong picked up on tha theme. Joe in many ways, really articulates the same issues as those of the early femenist movement.

"expressing emotions"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-12 15:03:40
Link to this Comment: 5356

Well, Barbara, I'm not sure. Let me play w/ your idea a little bit. Certainly Ahab "expresses his feelings" ("I'd strike the sun if it insulted me!") and they are precisely the feelings of RAGE that Marmee counsels Meg to accept in, to be careful NOT to incite in her husband, and counsels Jo to tame in herself. Perhaps the difference has less to do w/ "expressing feelings" than with WHICH feelings are allowable to which gender, and by whom? What advice would Marmee give to Ahab? Would Ahab any advice for Marmee? Can you even imagine that conversation? Where would it take place? Would she be attending to his needs, while he looks ...further off? Look @ this sculpture by Gustav Vigeland which figures this dynamic

--the woman focused on the man, the man focused elsewhere--very strongly for me. (If you're interested, you'll find more of these images @ Gustav Vigeland: An Appreciation, including another sculpture where that dynamic seems reversed (maybe as the guy got older, he shifted his attention....?)

why don't boys read girly books?
Name: Bernadette
Date: 2003-04-14 00:37:13
Link to this Comment: 5364

I was very glad in class on thursday (4/10) when we discussed a bit why reading a girl's story is so different than a boy's story such as Huck Finn. Though I understand why the guys in the class are groaning through this novel I have felt Katie's own annoyance at the question she posed about why it's ok for girl's to read or be read boy's stories but not visa versa. I forget who it was that made this comment (sorry) but I agree with the person in class who mentioned the male universal on Thursday. That's the only clear conclusion that makes sense to me. Perhaps this will sound too strong, but I think that from the time we are young females are expected to accept and adapt to a male oriented society while males are not expected to learn about let alone have interest or understand the feminine parts of society and life. The feminine exists as a part of the male whole.
I don't know if having yound boys read LW would be part of a remedy to this since I'm still uncertain if I think that this is a usefull novel for young girls, but I do think that children should be taught both female and male gendered texts along with non-gendered texts (if such a thing realy exists).

last part of little women
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-04-14 14:41:32
Link to this Comment: 5365

although there was beth's death...i find the ending of the novel too happy...and i am not sure the kind of insight i am supposed to get ... particularly with the development of Jo as a character... i am not sure what her marriage meant it changes the shape of the novel...better or worse? i think though...this is a feministic question...whether a woman is allow to view as strong...and also enter into a dependent relationship... i feel that Jo's success owes a lot to the professor...yet...i hesitate to conclude it's sign of weakness...

i also had a chance to watch the kathern hepburn and 1994 version... i think that the oldest version the characters are much more developed...there is more of a storyline...truer to the novel then the other two versions.

too little women in our literature?
Name: nancy
Date: 2003-04-14 21:09:47
Link to this Comment: 5370

I, too, am really frustrated with the complaints about this being a girl's book. its no that i disagree, it is most definitely a stereotypical girl's book, and that is part of the reason i think it disturbs me. i would love to imagine that alcott is raging against her father and his stifling ideas of salvation and standards of behavior for girls; it would be utterly vindicating for me if Alcott presented her "little women" in such stereotypical fashion in order to breach the ideas we had on the board last week (ie justice vs care and resp. to others). in other words, it is an extension beyond the third generation feminism critiques to a place where emphasis is on the valorization and the fulfillment of the self. perhaps alcott (in response to her father's attempts to "stop [her] passion and wayward will") is showing us that striving to fulfill personal desires is the ultimate path to happiness, that women so depleted of selfishness and motivation (beth) will leave the world without leaving any legacy other than their timid footsteps. throughout the novel, the girls find it difficult to let go of their "selfish" dreams, but why should this be mandatory? why should there be an inscripted code of behavior that diminishes the self and the desires unique to the self? marmee's preaching, in my opinion, strives to turn her girls from the four very different (although a tad caricaturistic) young women they inherently are into four little marmees, completely out of touch with their true emotions. this is the main reason i say this is NOT A 'GIRLS BOOK'!!! it is a 'suppression of girls' book, and of course that is boring, trite, and stereotypical. i think when we get to the awakening we will see the real definition of a "woman's book". i wish (in hindsight) that we had spent some time on the gendering of LW and the language because it has really shown me how the implied reader is in fact male, and that women have grown accustomed to that, so somehow literature that does not address the female plight has become the literature of the masses, for both men and women, but a great outcry arises when books that have little to do with men attempt to break through to public recognition and collective identification. just a few thoughts.

Education in LW
Name: Emily
Date: 2003-04-14 21:55:38
Link to this Comment: 5373

I know we're going to talk about this tomorrow, but I think that the theme of education in LW is very interesting to think about. Although we only hear about schooling directly with Amy's lime incident, there is a lot of teaching that is going on. Marmee is a role model figure. She teaches her children how to behave and what to value in life. Her lessons are not academic, but seeing that the role of women in the time the book was written, was not to be especially academic, I think Mrs. March does an excellent job of teaching her daughters "lifes lessons." Mr. March is also a teacher. He is a minister that leads his congregation. Again, not academic, but teaches about God, etc. More obvious examples of education in the novel are Mr. Brook and Professor Bhaer, both teachers by profession. Lastly, Jo is an extremely educated person. When she goes to NYC to be a tutor, she also learns a lot about herself and her writing. We see her make progress with her writings in the second part of the book when she stops writing to please other people, and starts writing what is pleasing and more true to herself.

So what I guess I'm trying to say is that there's a lot of educating going on in LW, but not in the academic form. I don't think the March girls would do too well on the SATs (Maybe Jo would do pretty well in the verbal section), but they know a lot about how to be good and moral people. Maybe we should all learn a lesson from the book and worry a little less about academics and more about life. Academics only go so far...

Little Women
Name: Monica Loc
Date: 2003-04-14 22:18:32
Link to this Comment: 5375

To be honest, I was not enjoying the first half of the book and I wanted more action in the story. As I said, after reading Huck Finn which was full of adventure, I expected Little Women to be as conflicting. While I was finishing the book, I just could not seem to put it down. I am enjoying it more than ever. Even if many say that the book is not challenging, the story in itself is so delightful to read. I actually enjoy reading the life of these women. It is interesting and since I have sisters of my own, I see their personalities in these characters which makes it even more exciting for me to read. I also see Marmee as the girls' role model which reminds me of how my mother brought us up-teaching us a lot about morals and values.. There is a lot of learning going on in the March household and I agree with Emily when she says that we should worry less about academics and think more of life, academics can only go so far.
I can't wait to hear other peoples reactions to the second half and if some are actually enjoying the story this time around.

Education and Spheres of Influence
Name: Jillian
Date: 2003-04-15 00:34:32
Link to this Comment: 5383

I completely agree with Emily in that education in LW occurs primarily outside of an academic setting. Learning takes place on all different fronts and each sister seems to represent a specific type of learning. Meg learns the virtues of a housewife when she marries John; Jo's education takes place on an academic front when she reads her books and explores her own mind through writing; Beth is forced to examine the metaphysical lessons of life as she draws closer and closer to death; and Amy, who wants so badly to be accepted into higher social circles, gets a social education which enables her to become the "proper lady" she always wanted to be.

I also wonder if each sister represents the expansion of the female's sphere of influence. It starts off with Meg who tries so hard to be the perfect "little wife" and controls the home. Then to Jo who is the scholar and writes books and supports herself and can therefore control her mind. Third there is Beth who is the spiritualist and controls her soul and passions and is able to look death calmly in the face. Finally, there is Amy who studies the social system and is able to manipulate it to get where she wants to go. She always wanted to be a member of high-society and accomplishes that goal by the end of the novel when she marries Laurie. Hence, the sphere of control expands with the progressive maturation of each sister. These "spheres of influence" also relate directly to each sister's educational frontier.
(This last idea is probably pushing the limits, but I thought it might be interesting).

Name: Samantha D
Date: 2003-04-15 08:37:54
Link to this Comment: 5400

Upon the completion of Little Women, I'm a bit conflicted about how I feel about it. I did get sucked into the lives of the girls, and found myself really concerned about their futures; however, I also felt extremely angry, and protective of the reputations of women in general as a result of some of the stereotypes Alcott perpetuates through her book. Possibly what I was most upset by was how Alcott altered Jo's and Amy's hopes for their futures so that they could be satisfied with being "happily married." Granted, they were happy in the end, but both sisters had dreams that they didn't seem pursue after marriage. In the movie, Jo gets married only after she has written her famous novel "Little Women" which was absent in the book. And though Amy seems extremely happy with her marriage and child, I felt like she forfeited her artistic ambitions for her marriage. I could be misunderstanding this, but I was a bit upset that their respective "castles in the sky" were changed to accomodate marriage.

Name: Eric Seide
Date: 2003-04-15 09:17:30
Link to this Comment: 5401

I am reminded of a scene in Dawson's Creek (uhhh, not that I've ever seen it, I just heard about it......) when Joey is visiting college and she is asked what her favorite books is, and she says Little Women because she identifies with Jo, and her reasoning for thinking the book is good is torn to shreds. Is it wrong to like a book that doesn't challenge you? Of course not. In my opinion, even if it is not great literature in the traditional sense, or in any other sense, if a book invokes some sort of feeling in you, then it has done its job and deserves to be commended. Even though I did not love Little Women and found myself unable to finish it, it did make me think and feel (and mostly groan with aggravation).

Final Comments...
Name: Margaret R
Date: 2003-04-15 15:39:45
Link to this Comment: 5406

Today in class I posed the question, after having answered which moment in our lives we considered to have been a moment of learning, "Do you feel that if we could achieve phase five in Peggy Mcintosh's essay, that school and a college education would become much more influential or worth while?" It interests me because most of us pointed to our experiences as self-taught or self-realised, unlike the traditional form of learning by a teacher dictating to students what he/she considers knowledge. In phase five the classroom is much more like "Praxis" and the learning is almost self taught.
Relating this to Little Women, I find that the March girls reject the idea of formal education in the classroom, and attempt to prove that for them, developemnet occured in the home. I do not say "rejection" in the way that they refute its validity, yet that it isn't necessary to become "good wives" or "little women" by sitting in a classroom. Alcott strongly suggests that the type of learning in the classroom can be second to the greater lessons learned at home. Laurie, for example, graduates college, yet is lazy. Meg teaches him not to be that way in life, and this greater lesson was achieved without a formal education. Alcott points out what she truly feels is important in life through her March women; the pious and good christian lessons in Pilgrim's Progress learned at home.

"we WON'T grow up!"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-15 16:49:00
Link to this Comment: 5407

Taka asked me whether there are any current versions of Little Women, besides the movies from which we saw the clips. Check out the internet reports on the operatic versions which Natalie mentioned:

The first of these includes an interesting meditation on the "deeper meaning" of the novel: that "those we love will, in all innocence, wound and abandon us until we learn that their destinies are not ours to control." The composer of the opera states that "the conflict of Little Women is Jo versus the passage of time. ... Alone among protagonists in classic American fiction (Tom Sawyer, Holden Caulfield, Portnoy), she's happy where she is....Jo knows that adulthood will only graduate her from her perfect home. She fights her own and her sisters' growth because she knows deep down that growing up means growing apart."

This works, I think, as one explanation for the power of both Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Little Women : they allow us to imagine a world in which we don't have to grow up.

One last cry in defense of LW
Name: Jillian
Date: 2003-04-15 20:45:30
Link to this Comment: 5411

Okay, before we lay Little Women to rest, I felt like I needed to take this moment to defend its preservation in the American canon. I'll be the first to admit that Little Women isn't the most ingenious piece of literature out there. No, it's not filled with exquisitely beautiful prose and it probably doesn't hold any searing and brilliant insight into life; but are those the only things which make a novel a classic? There has to be some reason why we all elected to read LW in the beginning of the semester. Little Women spoke to many of us in our childhood and whether consciously or not, it holds a special place in our minds. At one point or another, LW meant a great deal to many of us. Books don't remain childhood classics for over a century for no reason. Alcott found a way into many girl's hearts because there is a great amount of truth in her writing. Almost every girl can see herself in at least one of the sisters and grows as an individual through that literary identification. She sees her struggles in Jo's or Meg's or Amy's or Beth's struggles and finds comfort and solace in seeing the universality of those struggles. Little Women is a great coming of age story that places value on things like family, community, and individuality - all of which are themes which many young to adolescent girls deal with. (I realize that I'm writing about this book as a girl's book, but since I'm a girl, I don't feel that I have the authority to speak towards the male experience of reading LW).
As longs as Little Women continues to hold its place on the young girl's bookshelf, we should not stop studying it or remove it from the canon. The book's value lies not in the particular words Alcott wrote, but the ways it has lived and woven itself into our culture through our own "little women". Any book that has been as influential as LW deserves to continue to be studied in our colleges.

Little Women
Name: Barbara
Date: 2003-04-15 20:59:33
Link to this Comment: 5412

What a fascinating idea, an opera about Little Women. I think what is wonderful about Marmee is that she doesn't push any of the children out of the house but allows them to find their own moment to leave. Yes, Joe is definitely fighting that moment, but she is the one to decide on the need to leave the nest. In the U.S., so different from many other parts of the world, that moment comes for so many at college age, often for a few not quite prepared. All these books we are reading,kicking and screamning for some of us, really are making us look to our own feelings, at least for me.

those we love
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-04-15 22:15:08
Link to this Comment: 5413

YES! "those we love will, in all innocence, wound and abandon us until we learn that their destinies are not ours to control."
It is so so true. i'm not sure if it works with little women, but it is so true and if that is what someone has learned from little women then that makes the reading and teaching of little women worth it. and if we hadn't read little women then no one would have posted that sentence and i wouldn't have heard it and been so blown away...because it is so true.
people by nature are is pain, because NO ONE STAYS!!! everyone leaves you at some point, PEOPLE DIE. Humans are addicted to companionship. and therefor the greatest tragedy of the human race is: NO ONE STAYS. it is so true...that might be the only thing that i KNOW. AlL we want is to be together, so why do we keep hurting ourselves and leaving each other?
"you'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs, i look around me and i see it isn't so." yes, i am quoting moulain rouge...but, that line is the point...this desperate, despairing love is so addictive...why do we keep doing it to ourselves?? people just don't get tired of love, no matter how cliched it becomes.
we need companionship. holden caulfield desperatly askes sally, a girl he can't even stand, to run away into the woods with him.
so, the geniouses, who know that ALL PEOPLE LEAVE, are the ones who leave society and live in the woods (JD Salinger and Emily Dickinson)...but, they are the most masocistic of all because they don't allow themselves to 'love and be loved in return' therefor denying their humanity.
so how do we go through life without hurting????? ((please don't tell me that it's imposible))
do we leave society and never be loved? write?
or do we doom ourselves to loss? and love.
tell me, please.
i guess the second half of the statement answers my question: "...until we learn that their destinies are not ours to control."
but i guess i am a control freak, and haven't matured enough to learn.

Final thought...
Name: kathy
Date: 2003-04-15 22:40:13
Link to this Comment: 5414

Although I'm really glad I read Little Women (and feel I got some things out of the book), I do not think it should be taught in school. I thought it was a classic story about being a part of a family and growing up that is to be read by little girls or young women (or even men) as they see fit. The lessons taught in Little Women are ones I feel are learned within a family or at home, I guess that's why I feel it doesn't really have a place in the classroom.

Name: orah
Date: 2003-04-15 22:40:16
Link to this Comment: 5415

i thought about works for little woman...and yes, we should keep reading the book:)

"death essential to emergence"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-16 14:55:08
Link to this Comment: 5417

This is in response to Orah, who said, "everyone leaves you at some point, PEOPLE DIE. Humans are addicted to companionship. and therefor the greatest tragedy of the human race is: NO ONE STAYS."

One of the places where I've been doing some very serious and exciting thinking this year has been the Faculty Working Group on Emergence. And one of the most useful things I've gotten hold of there is the notion of how essential death is to emergence. I'm finally (not just figuring out intellectually but) coming to appreciate emotionally how important death and loss are in clearing a space for something new to evolve. Mary Catherine Bateson writes about this in her book Composing a Life: "we will have to change our sense of the transitory and learn to see success in marriages that flourish for a time and then end" (7). (WHAT WOULD MARMEE SAY TO THAT???]

I also wrote about this @ some length in the Emergence Forum in a posting called "Metamorphosis." See if that...helps? Opens a way beyond tragedy? (My modest proposal? Let's get rid of that genre, stop wallowing in our mistakes and...move on to a new stage.)


Name: orah
Date: 2003-04-16 16:36:57
Link to this Comment: 5419

"Our identity is a dream. We are process."
so beautiful...yes, it is comforting this time. to think that no one really leaves, but only dissipates into the air, become those flashes of sunlight on water, in the wind that blows the white cherry bossums of the trees. The memory of people lingers ... time does not have to be linear because the tangible is not the only thing that exists...there are emotions that last longer than the body. but....a poem:

"The Spirit lasts-but in what mode- / Below, the Body speaks, / BUt as the Spirit furnishes- / Apart, it never talks- / The Music in the Violin / Does not emerge alone / But Arm in Arm with Touch, yet Touch / Alone- is not a Tune / The Spirit lurks within the Flesh / Like Tides within the Sea / That make the Water live, estranged / What would the EIther be?" ((ED poem 1576. this is not the whole poem. this is the only part i think i understand.))

and yes, "to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it." But at the same time i think it is the touch that we crave as humans, the PHYSICAL presence of another. i choke thinking of someone i love becoming sunlight on water...NO!
humans have so many innate 'flaws'- we are by nature selfish and, i guess, completely attached to the physical."See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me." all are physical. none of those desires can be fulfilled in a letter......
maybe the pain of loosing each other lasts only in life and after we realize that death is not tragic but part of the praocess that we embody. if life is just a dream then.....i don't know.

A Sixth March Sister?
Name: Julia
Date: 2003-04-16 19:52:11
Link to this Comment: 5422

This morning Orah and I were guarding the pool when we started a conversation about placing me as a sixth sister in the March household. Despite my usual mild manner I canÕt see myself being able to control myself as well as Jo works to. At some point I would burst with irritation, yelling, Ņget over yourself you prissy bitch,Ó at Amy at some point. I find that the text leads me to the extreme point of frustration that would lead me to make such a statement in its descriptions of the girls, in how they speak and act. I think IÕm just a little too irreverent to exist in their midst.
Maybe it was just the early hour of the morning when we had the conversation that made it so funny. I guess that maybe I come to the conclusion of my ultimate frustration with Amy, as well as Meg, because they remind me of my motherÕs family. They are this gathering of women who are mostly concerned with superficial things, treating gossip as part of daily existence. Knowing the people involved isnÕt even important. I find that the two girls I despise fit the basic image of the two generations of women that came before me. I just donÕt like to think that such an image of women could be taken as realistic. Yuck!

a late entry
Date: 2003-04-21 21:32:45
Link to this Comment: 5460

I'm posting this a week after our last class on LW so I doubt anyone will be reading it - but I wanted to put my opinion out there anyway. When we played "borometer" to see who would or wouldn't like to keep LW in the canon I placed myself with the "woulds" despite my misgivings about whether the novel presents an example of the "sphere of womanhood" that should be bolstered in any way. LW, although managing to uphold patriarchal institutions, is also a rare text in which the live of young females is sketched out instead of relying on the universality of male life. I'm not sure if I am making any sense - but basically I think it should stay in the canon because boys cannot easily relate to it.

Name: Bernadette
Date: 2003-04-21 21:35:10
Link to this Comment: 5461

sorry - the above post was mine.

Little Women/Kohlberg
Name: Phil
Date: 2003-05-14 13:03:19
Link to this Comment: 5658

While putting together my portfolio, I was reminded of our brief discussion of Kohlberg in reference to Little Women. In class I had said that the Kohlberg model of moral development did not really work because of the absence of true Kohlberg dilemmas. Anne disagreed with this point, and I realized than as I do now that it was not a legitimate reason. At that time I did not really know why the Kohlberg model did not fit with Little Women, but I think I have found the cause of this unease. Little Women is not presented from the first-person, as Huck Finn was, but from the third-person. Consequently, the dialogue and ego development occurring in the novel, say when Jo sacrifices her 'one beauty' to help her family, are not presented to the reader. Because the novel is not told from the first-person, we cannot get into analyzing the thought processes of the March girls as they grow and develop as characters.

here to stay
Name: Kati
Date: 2003-05-14 14:26:59
Link to this Comment: 5666

I totally agree with Bernadette's posting on keeping Little Women in the literrary cannon. If it's important for young woman to feel obligated to read it there must be a justifying reason somewhere. I was initially insulted and and turned off by the stereotyping and generalization in the book, but after Eric's statement on "too much estrogen" I was engergized to continue and even if it killed me I was going to like and find something valuable to justify this text. So it was first out of stuborness that I began to enjoy the book, but as I continued I just couldn't help myself and got so caught up and interested in the lives of the March girls that I enjoyed the novel even more than when I was 13. The novel also helped me to understand the roles women were allowed to assume in nineteenth century better than the other novels to that point and gave me some further insight into the transcendentalist school of thought. Thanks Louisa May!

Name: Sebastian
Date: 2003-05-15 17:51:50
Link to this Comment: 5688

Not a big fan of this book. Too little actually happens, the focus is purely on inter- and intrapersonal relationships, these in particular did not hold my attention. My mom liked this book. My mom also likes to collect small porcelain piglets. This is not my kind of book.

Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-05-16 08:57:25
Link to this Comment: 5696

This book although long and drawn out. I felt had something to offer as far as an easier read that really seemed to touch on a lot of religious ideas that seemed well intriguing. I unlike most people have liked the book quite a bit but do have to admit some of the moments that seemed to drag on within it. I began reading this book over spring break during my stay with an alumni and felt so grabbed by it that I couldn't put it down. I really liked the playful story line and the way that it was written.

Reading in this class?
Name: Taka
Date: 2003-05-16 16:23:13
Link to this Comment: 5714

After spending some time thinking whether we should read these "classics", I realized that we are asking two different questions: one is whether we should be reading them in general, and the other is to read in this course. While there are many good enough reasons for the LW to go into the canon, I thought that this book is not really suitable for the discussion style we have in this course. Same line of reasoning as I made in Leaves of Grass, I felt that the author's assertion was so strongly made by Mrs. March, and we have only two choices of whether to accept her "sermon" or not. Everyone's action was articulated as the only one choice in each given circumstance, so there was no alternative if the readers refuse to accept Alcott's assertion. Other books we've read, especially UTC and HF, possessed capacities for the discussion even if readers do not accept author's assertion, so we could still get in the discussion. For LW (and LG), however, I was left out of the book because there was not much room to fit in. As a result, I dropped out from the March school.

I loved it!
Name: Sue
Date: 2005-01-08 23:23:48
Link to this Comment: 12026

OMG! lol Little Women was like the best girly book I've ever read.... It was just so much fun reading it that I couldn't stop. I read for my english class ISu. At first, I hated it just because I HAD to read it but then i started liking it was good. If a girl like ME can love this book, so can u.

Name: Blah
Date: 2005-01-12 22:09:52
Link to this Comment: 12030

This is one of the most confusing, horrible books I have ever read. The girls, supposedly teenagers, act as if they're much much younger, and all they do in the book is go to dances. This book sucks.

How to write a book report of "Little Women"?
Date: 2005-09-18 05:17:44
Link to this Comment: 16184

When i was a kid , i enjoyed watching the cartoon film named "Little Women";however, i forget it totally.
Last week, i bought its origional book, such a thick book ! I am afraid to read it though I have to hand in a book report of "Little Women" in 11 days.
I have never written a book report. We are asked to write a summary of the book. What is the summary of this book ? I do not know.
Then we are asked to analysis its characters. Which one should i choose and why ? What is her characteristics? I do not know either.
If you like this book, can you tell me something about it and help me with this difficult book report? Meanwhile, you also review this book and improve your writing skill . He, he...
Thank you in advance.

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