17 May 2009

Extra Discussion

My copy of Little Women has some interesting quotes and questions for discussion at the back. Here's the first one that caught my eye:

Do you feel Alcott pressuring the reader, no matter how obliquely, to take Jo as a role model?

I don't think that I do feel that way. One of the quotes included comes from Louisa herself. She wrote in her diary:

"Mr. N. wants a girls' story, and I begin 'Little Women.' Marmee, Anna, and May approve my plan, so I plod away, though I don't enjoy this sort of thing. Never liked girls or knew many, exceping sisters; our queer ways and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt it."

Though the story is semi-autobiographical, I don't think that she set about to make us into herself. It seems to me that she was just trying to make some money. If there was anyone in the story that it seems to be encouraging us to be like, I'd have to say it's Beth, not Jo. Beth is the one that is always held up as a saint and a model girl. Or perhaps Marmee, with her gentle ways and quiet goodness. But Jo doesn't even seem to like herself very much, much less does the book seem to be asking the reader to become like her! She's forever criticizing the way that Jo does things, the way that she says things, the things that she thinks, and Jo, being Jo, gets herself into more than one serious bit of trouble. She's definitely the main character, particularly in Good Wives, but I don't think that there's any pressure whatsoever to become more like her.

It seems to me that rather than asking the reader to become like Jo, the story is more a story about how Jo becomes a better person. In the process of showing the reader that story, I often felt inspired to become better than I am now. Some of that was Jo, but just as much was Marmee, and the other girls were working equally hard to become their best selves.

On a completely different note, I ordered the 1933 version of the movie, with Katherine Hepburn, from the library. Hopefully Monkey will be interested in watching it with me.


misskate said...

That is an interesting question... "do you feel Alcott pressuring the reader.. to take Jo as a role model?"
I don't know how I feel about that. I didn't really feel like ANY of the girls specifically were set to be role models.. more, I felt like Ms. Alcott's theme was "Find what brings you true joy". Jo did find joy, but so did all of the March's.
But each of the sisters were so different.. Yes, they all were married and had their own families, but they each were so different and I think that different sisters may resonate more with different readers.

Ritsumei said...

Definitely. I thought it was an interesting question to ask.