13 December 2008

Count your Many Blessings (chapters 4-6)

Our story is definitely picking up speed and gathering momentum. There was so much advancement of the plot in these three chapters; so very dense chapters. And heavy on the character development: Meg, who seemed so lovely and darling, is shown to have a cranky side. Jo, who was sketched to be so clumsy and awkward in all things, gracefully befriended a lonely boy, and brings the whole family in on it. We get greater insight into Beth's character and even Amy is fleshed out.

Marmee, while demonstrating some frustration (p. 37), still remains a very admirable woman. I am intrigued by her parenting style. As we come into the story, we're much too far along in the narration to read what it was that Marmee did to establish such an solid and wonderful relationship with her girls, but we clearly see how she works to maintain it. In chapter 4 (p. 47), they all take turns telling stories, essentially sharing their day's events with each other. Marmee not only listens actively to what her children are saying, she uses their own stories as a teaching tool. Through her teaching, she not only re-emphasises her tenets of living an active Christian life, but also she clearly demonstrates to the girls that what they say is important enough for her to pay real attention to. This validates them and can only work to build them up more and more. (haha.. listen to me go on as if i know something about parenting) But I definitely see that as something I'd like to [eventually] achieve and emulate in my own life with my own eventual kids.

I really like the development of the connection between Beth and Mr. Laurence. I was touched by how tenderly he worked to get Beth to come play his piano. I must say, of all the characters so far, I relate to Beth the best and I thought the exchange of gifts between them, at the end of chapter six, was so very sweet.

I really am enjoying this book. It makes me wish my life was more like this story. Not so much that I wish I were more poor or necessarily more humble.. but it would be really wonderful to have my blessings so beautifully (and clearly) laid out so I could better appreciate them.

Other, Outside Stuff
Ritsumei mentioned, in the comments of my last post, her curiosity surrounding the "Pilgrim's Progress" book that is occasionally mentioned in Little Women. Originally, I assumed that the mysterious Christmas book (chapter 2, p. 14) was a Bible, but further comments in the book, and Rit's mentioning it again peaked my curiosity as well and so I Googled "Pilgrim's Progress".

According to Wikipedia, Pilgrim's Progress is an actual book written by John Bunyan published in 1678. It is a Christian allegory about a man who quests for the "Celestial City" (representing Heaven, or the life to come). I think this may be the little book the Little Women are reading and using as a motivator to be better people. The actual text is available online here.


Ritsumei said...

Cool! I hadn't even noticed what a great Mother she is. I think I'll have to pay attention to Marmee more now.

This week it's my turn to need an extension... Not only is my lesson still incomplete, but our littlest sister is over to play today. I'll see if I can't get my thoughts together by tomorrow night.

misskate said...

Heh... no worries, I completely understand. Like you said last week, this is a pretty low stress thing. Take your time!

Ritsumei said...

I almost did my stuff on Thursday... now I'm wishing that I had. Oh well. At least it isn't really going to run into the next week's reading since we aren't doing any more till after Christmas!

Ritsumei said...

Good thing we have some extra time this time as it's taken me nearly all of this week to get finished with last week's work!

I agree, it's picking up momentum & the characters got fleshed out beautifully in this set of chapters.

I love the family dynamic. I would suspect that much of what has gone before is very similar to what we've seen so far: attentive listening, consistent teaching, and frequent service opportunities. Sounds like a wonderful diet for a child, or anyone else, for that matter. Think of the good that would come from applying that sort of principle to a marriage or a friendship! Since this book is somewhat autobiographical, I'm guessing that the Alcott family was close and loving and the interactions, while perhaps somewhat more rosy, are similar to the way the real family ran. When I think about it it's not that much different from the way that our family was raised. One thing that I'd like to keep an eye on is how they get such beautiful interactions between the girls. These girls have such amazing relationships with each other! We are not supposed to allow our children to fight or quarrel with each other, and that's such an unusual way for siblings to behave that I'd love to see how a family might do it so that I can practice and (someday) deliberately teach that kind of love in my own home.

I think that I'm going to go with thinking that the book is the Bible, although they really haven't mentioned it much since the beginning of the second chapter. Here's my reasoning: the letter from Father (chapter 1) mentions the Pilgrim's Progress, which the girls are all already very familiar with. It was a story they acted out when they were little girls, ranging all over the house to "tell" the story properly. So the father, thinking of his girls, would have that memory to pull out and cherish while he is away.

But as for the book, when Jo finds hers, it says "She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived..." which to me clearly speaks of the Lord. As reverently Christian as this story is, I sincerely doubt that Ms. Alcott would have described a made-up story in this sort of terms, which are usually reserved for the Lord alone. Additionally, each of the girls receives the book with a different colored cover. It seems unlikely to me that Marmee would have been able to find four colors of Pilgrim's Progress, but where the Bible is such a common book, it is still often printed and bound into different colored covers. I suspect that is what is happening here.

All that being said, I'm glad that you posted the link to the Pilgrim's Progress anyway. It's been moving up my list of things that I'd like to have a look at.

So many books, so little time!