10 May 2009

Growth (Part 2)


Homily - 1. a sermon, usually on a Biblical topic and usually of a nondoctrinal nature. 2. an admonitory or moralizing discourse. 3. an inspirational saying or cliché.


Chapter 43: This chapter opens with a homily touching the virtues of being kind to spinsters, who perhaps are not as miserable as one might think. I thought this was interesting, as it seems to me that it's the most direct look into Alcott herself that we've had through out the book. She has a lot to say:

"A old maid, that's what I'm to be. ... And Jo sighed, as if the prospect was not inviting.

It seldom is, at first, and thirty seems the end of all things to five-and-twenty; but it's not so bad as it looks, and one can get on quite happily if one has something in one's self to fall back upon. At twenty-five, girls begin to talk about being old maids, but secretly resolve that they will never be; at thirty they say nothing about it, but quietly accept the fact, and, if sensible, console themselves by remembering that they have twenty more useful, happy years, in which they may be learning to grow old gracefully. Don't laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragic romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under the sober gowns, and many silent sacrifices of youth, health, ambition, love itself, make the faded faces beautiful in God's sight. Even the sad, sour sisters should be kindly dealt with, because they have missed the sweetest part of life, if for no other reason: and, looking at them with compassion, not contempt, girls in their bloom should remember that they too may miss the blossom time; that rosy cheeks don't last forever, that silver threads will come in the bonnie brown hair, and that, by-and-by, kindness and respect will be as sweet as love and admiration now.

Gentlemen, which means boys, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or color. Just recollect the good aunts who have given you from their small store, the stitches the patient old fingers have set for you, the steps the willing old feet have taken, and gratefully pay the dear old ladies the little attentions that women love to receive as long as they live. The bright-eyed girls are quick to see such traits, and will like you all the better for them; and if death, almost the only power that can part mother and son, should rob you of yours, you will be sure to find a tender welcome and maternal cherishing from some Aunt Priscilla, who has kept the warmest corner of her lonely old heart for "the best nevvy in the world."

I chuckled at the "20 more years" part, but the next makes me want to find a biography and learn a bit more about Louisa: was she thinking of someone she'd given up when she speaks of "tragic romances" and "sacrificed" love? I put a biography on hold at the library, so maybe after reading a bit more about her this will seem more clear. In the mean time, she's got some great advice on downright decent behavior here at the beginning of the chapter.

The moralizing done, she jumps right back into our story with Jo's discovery of Amy & Laurie's marriage; a most comical scene! It's so like Jo, "Mercy on us! What dreadful thing will you do next?" A fine welcome home, congratulations, glad to see you this is!

I'm still not buying the whole Jo/Professor thing, but the outcome is a foregone conclusion... she's going to marry a man who is her father's peer. He's a nice man, charming and kind. But I still think that big of an age difference is one that's going to make a difference. At least, it would in real life.

Chapter 44: Amy is a goose. "Your nose is such a comfort to me?" She was silly as a girl and hasn't grown out of all of it. Which is a good thing. But I've never understood the whole nose thing she has.

This chapter wasn't quite what I expected. I was anticipating something like the chapter where Meg and John set up housekeeping. I had to read it twice because it was so unexpected. But I like what they say, though it is more or less another homily. I've felt that way many times: I wish I had more so that I could give it away a little more freely than I can now.

No comments: