28 February 2009

Another Beginning

My Ponderings:

Chapter 24
Time has passed and we fast forward our story a little and it's three years later. Our characters have continued and progressed, and now it is time for Meg's much anticipated wedding.

I found the description of the little home that was put together for the new Brooke Family a little bit on the annoying side. I recognize that it's probably fitting with the time this book is set, but it struck me a little peculiar that the little house seemed to be only referred to as "Meg's house" or a "house for Meg". John Brooke put in a lot of effort to earn for it and prepare it, but it was never "their house" or "our house", it was just for Meg.

And I must admit, before Ms. Alcott was done, I was a little tired of hearing about how wonderful a woman Meg was for all the housekeeping she was prepping for and eagerly anticipating and for doing it all herself.
"Yes, mother, I'm sure of that, " said Meg, listening respectfully to the little lecture; for the best of women will hold forth upon the all-absorbing subject of housekeeping. (Chapter 24, pg. 249)

"That's a housewifely taste which I am glad to see. I had a young friend who set up housekeeping with six sheets, but she had finger bowls for company, and that satisfied her," said Mrs. March, patting the damask tablecloths, with a truly feminine appreciation of their fineness. (Chapter 24, pg. 250)

Yes, cleaning is good. Yes, often it is the wife who does much of those thing.. ok. Enough with the exalting of it all already! To be honest, I wasn't super bothered by it really, but it did definitely make me roll my eyes :)

Chapter 25
I love the opening to this chapter:
The June roses over the porch were awake bright and early on that morning, rejoicing with all their hearts in the cloudless sunshine, like friendly little neighbors, as they were. Quite flushed with excitement were their ruddy faces, as they swung in the wind, whispering to one another what they had seen; for some peeped in at the dining-room windows, where the feast was spread, some climbed up to nod and smile at the sisters as they dressed the bride, others waved a welcome to those who came and went on various errands in garden, porch, and hall , and all, from the rosiest full-blown flower to the palest baby-bud, offered their tribute of beauty and fragrance to the gentle mistress who had loved and tended them so long. (Chapter 25, pg. 255)

I love how that she uses the flowers as the "narrators", artfully drawing us right back into the action of our story. We ended with Meg tending the yard and dreaming of what it could look like, and three years later we return and the roses are blooming and adding a fragrant touch to the beautiful wedding site.

Also, I thought it was really cool that Meg kept the ceremony and decorations so simple. They were quite the contrast to the thought she had had earlier when she "felt some disappointment at the humble way in which the new life must begin... Meg couldn't help contrasting [the Moffat's] fine house and carriage, many gifts, and splendid outfit, with her own, and secretly wishing she could have the same (Chapter 24, pg. 245)."

I thought it was quite the testimony to her love of John, as well as her development from girl to woman, that she would have that secret wish but recognize that those things were nothing much when compared to the "patient love and labor John had put into the little home..." and that "when they sat together... talking over their small plans, the future always grew so beautiful and bright that she forgot Sallie's splendor, and felt herself the richest, happiest girl in Christendom (pg. 245)." And then on page 255 we read: "Neither silk, lace nor orange-flowers would she have. "I don't want to look strange or fixed up to-day," she said. "I don't want a fashionable wedding, but only those about me whom I love, and to them I wish to look and be my familiar self." I really thought that was a beautiful way to view a wedding and marriage.

Chapter 26
This chapter seemed a return to Ms. Alcott's trend of mixing lessons with her story. In contrast to Meg's humble wedding (which Ms. Alcott clearly felt was the best, and most honest way to have it), Amy goes all out to put together a party for some girls she knows from school. She wishes for it to be a lavish and grand party, so that they will feel comfortable and enjoy themselves, despite her lack of funds. Then, in the end, despite the much effort and money spent on the event, only one girl attended the party. It seemed to me that the lesson here is not to pretend to be something we are not, even if we think it may impress others; to represent ourselves honestly.

Mrs. March seemed to think that Amy's plan was wanting in wisdom, and tried to talk her out of it. However, Amy was obstinate and Mrs. March conceded.

I really liked this quote though:
Mrs. March knew that experience was an excellent teacher, and when it was possible she left her children to learn alone the lessons which she would gladly have made easier, if they had not objected to taking advice as much as the did salts and senna (Chapter 26, pg. 266).

That really resonated with me. How often do we fall victim to embarrassment or trouble due to our own stubbornness and disregard for counsel or advice from those who may see a larger picture or have greater experience? At least for me, it's more frequently than I might like :) I felt it was nice to have this little story as a small reminder.

27 February 2009

Origami Bookmark

I ran across some random origami paper this evening on my craft table, and as I'm needing a couple of bookmarks, though I'd look up a folded version. This pattern is easy to follow and makes a nice looking bookmark. Obviously, it wouldn't need to be origami paper - scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or just whatever you had on hand would work just as well.

24 February 2009

The End of a Part

As always, Ritsumei has summarized the chapters beautifully. However, there were a few things in here that I wanted to add to our Vocab Section:

Precipitately: to hasten the occurrence of; bring about prematurely, hastily or suddenly.

"Undine and Sintram" - from the context, this is clearly a book that Jo has been wanting for a while, but I was curious what it was about. After a little online research I discovered that it was a Christian fantasy from that era written by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque.

Chapter 22
There has been some debate whether "the little book" the March sisters have been reading is the Bible or Pilgrims Progress. In Chapter 22 (pg. 226) Ms. Alcott dispels the mystery when, in talking with Jo, Beth out and out says, "I read in 'Pilgrims Progress' to-day..." And now we know :)

I really like the consistency of Ms. Alcott's writing. I feel like that consistency is demonstrated well in this chapter. In the previous couple chapters, Ms. Alcott introduces a little glimpse of darker thoughts with Beth's sickness, Laurie's mischief and Jo's disgruntlement with Meg's pending wedding.
Now, we've already mentioned that Ms. Alcott is writing our story in a style of Realism and, in real life, dark things do happen. She could have continued with the darker thoughts like some authors do today (read: the Harry Potter series that is so irritatingly inconsistent, especially in this sense, that I cringe every time people laud it as "great" writing and I hope nobody ever groups it in the same category of "Classic" as 'Little Women')
However, she brings us back to the light and cheery feel that we've gotten so familiar with by saying illustrative things; skillfully using words to paint a renewed picture: "Now and then, in this work-a-day world, things do happen in the delightful story-book fashion, and what a comfort that is (pg.222)." And also: "...for the full hearts overflowed, washing away the bitterness of the past, and leaving only the sweetness of the present (pg. 223)."
In writing, I think it is good to have an ebb and flow; stories are uninteresting if there is no conflict or trouble. However, it is a sign of skillful writing when the author is able to keep the tone of the book consistent.

Chapter 23
Ritsumei spent some time talking about the dichotomy that Ms. Alcott seems to present between happiness and wealth. I agree that it seems that Meg, in choosing to fall in love with a poor man, is having to choose happiness over money. I, myself, didn't really notice this. Rather, I thought it was interesting how Ms. Alcott captured the idea in words that sometimes people need the impetus of an (sometimes unexpected) outside force to help us to realize truths within ourselves, or make decisions that may be difficult or outside our comfort zone.

That and, I was mostly just amused because it seemed that Aunt March had inadvertently done what she didn't want to. By forcefully telling Meg that she was making a foolish decision she, by accident, caused Meg to acknowledge the feelings that she already had been developing but hadn't admitted yet. Since Aunt March is such a crotchety old bird, I thought it was funny that she herself undid her own wishes.

23 February 2009

The First Book

So, here we are at the end of the first book. The end of the March girls' childhood. It's something of a reflective moment. Initially these 2 books were published separately, so there was a great deal more meaning to Ms. Alcott's "So grouped, the curtain falls upon Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Whether it ever rises again, depends upon the reception given to the first act of the domestic drama called Little Women." I find myself feeling inclined to take a minute and look back on the book and ponder it a bit.

Susan Bauer talks about the importance of not only finding out the bare facts of the story, but asking yourself, "So, what?"

So, what? What about this book so far? I think it's clear that we both like the book. One thing we've both commented on a couple times in a couple different ways is that Little Women inspires us to do better, to be better. So the question I'm pondering right this minute is, "why?"

Also, we should probably think at least a little bit about what we want to read next.
Did you ever decide what to do about the Olive Tree?

22 February 2009



Chapter 22: Christmas at the March home is made complete and wonderful by Father's return. Mr. Brooke comes with him & wishes to speak of marriage to Meg.

Chapter 23: Aunt March irritates Meg, which helps her realize how much she loves Mr. Brooke, or "my John" as he's now known. Jo continues to struggle with the engagement, though she does see some good in it.


It's interesting the way that Ms. Alcott brings out the damage done by the company Meg kept:

"Anne Moffat's foolish lessons in coquetry came into her mind, and the love of power, which sleeps in the bosoms of the best of little women, woke up all of a sudden and took possession of her. She felt excited and strange, and not knowing what else to do, followed a capricious impulse..." (page 223, Chapter 23)

It's interesting, because this chapter has such a significant battle between money and happiness. The Moffats and Aunt March have money, but Alcott has been consistent throughout the book in bringing out how little happiness their wealth brings them. On the other hand, the March family and Mr. Brooke have very little wealth but are warmer and more genuine, which brings them a great deal of happiness. It seems to me that Ms. Alcott is setting Meg up to choose between wealth and happiness. I'm not sure that's really a choice that has to be made: I know some people who have quite a bit and still are down-to-earth and happy. On the other hand, the stereotypes that Ms. Alcott brings out in both the Moffat family and Aunt March are very real dangers for those who are blessed with abundance.

Catching Up


Chapter 19: Amy, while she stays with Aunt March, learns a bit more patience and humility. She struggles to meet the demands placed on her with grace, but Esther (the french maid) helps. Being away from her family is also a trial to her, but she does her best and it turns out to be pretty good. If I remember correctly, the drawings that she makes of that painting are to be important later.

Chapter 20: Mrs. March does a lot of mothering in this chapter! First, she goes to Aunt March's place and visits Amy, who is still waiting for the danger of the scarlet fever to pass. Amy is thrilled, and shows her mother the little meditation corner that she has built for herself, as well has her copy of Mary & Baby Jesus. Mrs. March, of course, is pleased with her work. Mrs. March also takes over the nursing of Beth, and in addition she comforts Jo who is very upset about Mr. Brooke's intentions toward her sister.

Chapter 21: Laurie, upset because he has not been included in a secret and acting like a spoiled fool, plays a terrible prank on Meg. Once that is all sorted out, Marme swears him to secrecy over the matter to protect Meg's feelings. This causes problems for Laurie at home because his Grandfather hears of the problems and tries to force Laurie to say what's been going on. Jo helps to sooth things over.


The family (and their neighbor) are beginning to grow up and with growth come some inevitable growing pains. Like Kate I think that Laurie is still somewhat lacking. I don't blame Mrs. March for not being excited about the idea of one of her girls marrying him, although he has made a good companion for them. It is, indeed, bittersweet to see the girls growing up and to begin to anticipate the break up of their merry bunch. Marriages change so much. However, a good marriage and happy family will bring a great deal of happiness.

16 February 2009

Keepin' with it ...

Alrighty! So we've been doing pretty well keeping with things, and so here's my latest installment to keep up the momentum :)

Chapter 19
Poor little Amy. This time away from home is rough on her tender, young heart. However, it actually seems to be a blessing in disguise. Through her distance from the strong, positive influence of her mother and sisters, she no longer was able to take them for granted; she came to see the value in those things on a very personal level. Amy still struggled to always remember to do the good things she meant to, but she was "very sincere in all this... [and] she instinctively turned to the strong and tender Friend, whose fatherly love most closely surrounds his little children (Chapter 19, pg. 197)."
Also, her trials led her to decide to bequeath her much beloved items to people whom she realized she cared for so much more than her worldly goods. I think that was a great for Amy, these things are very dear to her heart, but now she is beginning to see that there is more to life and happiness than pretty rings. So she wrote a will and even had Esther and Teddy witness it.

Chapter 20
I think the way that Ms. Alcott (and the March family) handles the developing of the possibility of a pending marriage is pretty true to life. It's a large, life altering change that is good and to be sought for, but the reality of it is often viewed with "a mixture of satisfaction and regret (Chapter 20, pg. 208)". I think this especially true for this tightly knit family. Jo is very vocal in her displeasure of what she sees as an inevitable change. As for Mrs. March, while she admires Mr. (John) Brooks and thinks him "perfectly open and honorable about [explaining his feelings for] Meg (pg. 205)", she still struggles with the idea somewhat as well. She says "It is natural and right you should all go to homes of your own, in time; but I do want to keep my girls as long as I can (pg. 206)." Not that I'm a mother or anything, but I feel like that attitude toward marriage is far more positive than the cavalier and very materialistic view we often see portrayed in our current main-stream movies and shows.

Again, Mrs. March is a great example of having one's priorities in the right place when she is explaining to Jo about marrying for money vs. love:
"Money is a good and useful thing, Jo; and I hope my girls will never feel the need of it too bitterly, nor be tempted by too much... I'm not ambitious for a splendid fortune, a fashionable position, or a great name for my girls. If rank and money come with love and virtue, also, I should accept them gratefully, and enjoy your good fortune; but I know, by experience, how much genuine happiness can be had in a plain little house, where the daily bread is earned, and some privations give sweetness to the few pleasures... if I am not mistaken [Meg] will be rich in the possession of a good man's heart, and that is better than fortune (pg. 207)."
Chapter 21
I was rather surprised by the nasty undertone of the prank pulled by Laurie. I thought that was surprisingly rough, though I think that the awfulness of the effects of his prank was a little surprising to Laurie as well.
Jo certainly did "manage" those two Lawrence gentleman very smoothly though. I thought that was pretty entertaining. However, I feel like the lack of communication between Laurie and his grandfather and the great pride that Laurie has (that I felt was quite evident in both his prank for not being told something as well as his threatening to run away since his grandfather tried to discipline him) are like the first glimpse of dark clouds on the horizon signifying more trouble to come.

Overall, I feel like the overall theme of these chapters was the importance of humility. Each of the characters have become slightly better people by having a larger portion of humility introduced into their lives.

08 February 2009

Another Exciting Installment

This week I have another word to add to Rit's already started Vocabulary section:
Didoes - [ˈdī-(ˌ)dō]
1 : a mischievous or capricious act : prank, antic —often used in the phrase cut didoes
: something that is frivolous or showy

In Hannah's letter to Marmee: "Mr. Laurie is as full of didoes as usual, and turns the house upside down frequent; but he heartens up the girls, and so I let em hev full swing."

I also was struck by the wisdom in Marmee's counsel to the girls in Chapter 16. "Don't grieve and fret when I am gone, or think that you can comfort yourselves by being idle and trying to forget. Go on with your work as usual, for work is a blessed solace. Hope and keep busy; and whatever happens, remember that you never can be fatherless." (p. 170, chapter 16).

It reminded me of a story of President Hinckley, as told by Elder Uchtdorf in a talk titled Happiness, Your Heritage:
President Gordon B. Hinckley believed in the healing power of service. After the death of his wife, he provided a great example to the Church in the way he immersed himself in work and in serving others. It is told that President Hinckley remarked to one woman who had recently lost her husband, "Work will cure your grief. Serve others."

I also like that Marmee instructed the girls to "Hope". That is so important; inspired advice. The opposite of hope is despair, and despairing can be such a damaging thing. There's another quote by Elder Uchtdorf (hehe.. forgive the frequent quoting, I'm teaching a lesson on one of his talks in a couple weeks and so his words are fresh in my mind) where he talks about the dangers of allowing despair to take hold in our lives:
Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul and deadens the heart... Hope on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances (The Infinite Power of Hope).

So yes, wise advice and, initially, well followed. But as Ritsumei pointed out, the girls started strong but slowly and imperceptibly lessened their efforts over time. The author sums it up beautifully: "...And, when the first excitement was over, [they] felt that they had done well, and deserved praise. So they did; but their mistake was in ceasing to do well... (pg. 178, Chapter 17)"

I agree with Ritsumei's comment on the previous post:
"It seems to be a truism about people; we only work hard when there's problems right on top of us."
I think that is something that the Lord knows very well about us fallible human types. That is why we have repeated counsel to "pray always", without ceasing and with diligence, "lest that wicked one have power over you (D&C 93:49)". I'm sure this trial will stick with the March girls their entire lives and will indeed make them even stronger women; more resolute in their efforts to be good.

07 February 2009

Getting 'Round To It

I went ahead & updated the schedule with new and improved dates that reflect the reality of busy lives! I think we're actually doing pretty well, just lost our momentum for a little while, but now we should pick up some more steam again. There's not a lot left to the first part; we're nearly halfway. So here goes my contribution to the steam building!


Chapter 16: Marme sets off for Washington to nurse Father through pneumonia. The girls write a number of letters, as well as Hannah, Laurie, and Mr. Lawrence. The chapter's theme seems to be "keep busy and it will keep your mind off things." Not a bad motto at all.

Chapter 17: The girls relax a bit upon hearing that Father is doing much better, except for Beth who picks up the slack a bit. Including visiting & nursing the Hummel family, whose baby dies of scarlet fever. Beth also comes down with the fever. Amy, who hasn't had it yet, is sent away to Aunt March.

Chapter 18: Beth becomes extremely ill with scarlet fever. Ill enough that they send for Mother. Fortunately, by this time Father is better and Mother is able to leave him. Beth passes the worst of it just as Mother arrives.


Insensibly - 1. Imperceptible; inappreciable: an insensible change in temperature.
2. Very small or gradual: insensible movement.

"Relieved of their first anxiety about their father, the girls insensibly relaxed their praiseworthy efforts a little, and began to fall back into the old ways." -Page 174, Chapter 17.


I really enjoyed the first of the three chapters this week. The idea of work as a kindness from the Lord, of work as a balm for the wounded spirit is an interesting one, one which I am beginning to learn the truth of. Mother said it so well:

"Go on with your work as usual, for work is a blessed solace. Hope and keep busy, and whatever happens, remember that you never can be Fatherless." - Page 166, Chapter 16.

And the girls began well - don't we all! But as they got good news they got comfortable and complacent, and let things slip. The word she used was "insensibly." They weren't even aware it was happening. This is SO true to life! In this case it had disastrous, nearly fatal, consequences. The girls become aware of their faults, but unfortunately not until it's too late, and Beth has become ill, and continued to work right through the early stages of the illness.

It seems to be a very similar pattern to the Nephite cycle: they get faithful, they get comfortable, they slip a bit, then something happens to "stir them up to remembrance" and they are careful again. We see the same thing in our efforts to loose weight: a little progress, a little backsliding, then struggle for progress again. It seems to be a truism about people: we only work hard when there's problems right on top of us. I always used to think that folks who were grateful for their trials were a bit off in the head, but the more I learn about it the more I think that they are often times a "tender mercy" from the Lord. How much more the girls learn from this experience than they would have from an uneventful couple of weeks! And the things they are learning are things that will bring them closer to the Lord; closer to the potential that He wants them to reach.

One other interesting bit is the reappearance of the "little books." I think I'm going to stick with my thought that it's the Bible, rather than "Pilgrim's Progress" that they are reading, as they draw a great deal of comfort from the book in these difficult times. Also, there is the fact that they seem to have a chapter-a-day habit of being in those little books, and that is a very typical way to read scriptures. It seems to me that if it was Pilgrim's Progress they would have reached the end of the book and then slacked off, rather than turning around and starting over. And given the months that have passed by they should have reached the end of Pilgrim's Progress by this point.