In Chapter 30 of Little Women, “Consequences,” Amy for the first time became a fleshed out character for me and I liked her very much. Having May Alcott A Memoir so fresh on my mind, I could see for the first time what May Alcott was really like. No memoir could describe her quite the way her own sister did. It confirmed some things about Louisa that I had suspected for a long time as well.
The morality play here was so interesting. Amy really had learned virtue, showing extraordinary character through the ordinary events of this chapter. It’s true that being slighted by her friend May Chester wasn’t an earth shattering event, but it was important to Amy and it hurt her just the same. I envied her self control and strength as she fought off retaliation and emotional outbursts in favor of kindness.
Part of the fun of reading Little Women for me is learning more about what made Louisa May Alcott tick. I’m gaining great insight about her spirituality and morality and it’s deep and well thought out. This particular passage really struck me as true:
Many wise and true sermons are preached us every day by unconscious ministers in street, school, office, or home. Even a fair table may become a pulpit, if it can offer the good and helpful words which are never out of season. Amy’s conscience preached her a little sermon from that text, then and there, and she did what many of us do not always do, took the sermon to heart, and straightway put it in practice.
That, to me, belays an understanding of spirituality that runs pretty deep. Louisa may not have been a church goer, but she apparently understood well what it really takes to be a good Christian. It’s these mundane little daily dramas and how we live them out that is the real mettle of spirituality.
I’ve noticed in the last few chapters that Jo’s “independent streak” is not so attractive to me as it was when she was a girl. Now emerging into adulthood, I see someone who goes out of her way to make her point that she will not conform to conventionality. I have to wonder if Louisa is being hard on herself, portraying Jo in this way. Was she really this awkward, decidedly stubborn and curmudgeonly? Jo approaches life in a very black and white fashion, not yet understanding the nuances. Principles trump all and while living a principled life is a good and noble thing, if it taken to extremes can cost a great deal. And Jo certainly paid the price in this chapter!
I always suspected that Louisa harbored some resentment and jealously towards younger sister May (though she fought hard against it) because things came so easily to May. A line from Chapter 30 certainly made that clear:
“It’s always so. Amy has all the fun and I have all the work. It isn’t fair, oh, it isn’t fair!” cried Jo passionately.
May Alcott A Memoir did not shine any light on this but only kept referring to May as being “lucky.” May was indeed lucky but she created her own luck because she mastered the art of graciousness. Amy earned her good fortune of a trip to Europe with her aunt because she was gracious and solicitous towards her aunt (and without expecting anything in return). I loved how she described what it meant to her to be a true woman:
“Why, girls, you needn’t praise me so. I only did as I’d be done by. You laugh at me when I say I want to be a lady, but I mean a true gentlewoman in mind and manners, and I try to do it as far as I know how. I can’t explain exactly, but I want to be above the little meannesses and follies and faults that spoil so many women. I’m far from it now, but I do my best, and hope in time to be what Mother is.”
Someone who is gracious creates their own luck. And those like Jo unfortunately reap the consequences. I felt awful for Jo but Amy deserved to be chosen.