Aniko Eva, a contributor to Open Salon, was kind enough to reblog my previous post on the unknown members of the Fruitlands community. I, in turn, am happy to reblog her excellent post on Transcendental Wild Oats, Louisa’s satirical response to her experience at Fruitlands.
Sometimes the only thing you can do in the midst of chaos and despair is to laugh. Louisa’s keen sense of humor served her well throughout her life, oftentimes making her the center of attention at the informal and regular open houses held at Orchard House. Llewellyn Frederick Willis, in his memoir recalls fondly the rollicking stories she would tell (see previous post).
Louisa loved taking on characters such as Sairey Gamp from the Charles Dickens book Martin Chuzzlewit and entertained the soldiers she cared for during her stint as a Civil War nurse.
Again, another time when all you could do sometimes is just laugh.
I invite you to read this wonderful account of Transcendental Wild Oats.
I didn’t expect to call it hilarious when I picked this book up, that but it’s true: Louisa May Alcott’s short satirical ribbing of her father’s ‘commune’, Transcendental Wild Oats, is hilarious. All those times you read books with a humorous hippie holdover from the ’70s or watched Dharma’s parents clash with Greg’s, you probably never knew that poor Louisa went through the experience first and for real.
And, while there are probably many ways one could approach this work, one thing that flies off the page when reading this story is the oppressive patriarchal dynamic that existed and, unfortunately, too often still exists. I’d suggest we not be too sensitive about the idea that stubborn male brains have often caused family pain. We all know some people lord their power over others in their circles; the Y-chromosome has just historically made it easier for some members of the human race to do this. Beware: many times it comes from good and honorable intentions. It just doesn’t work, and a husband-wife checks-and-balances system, had it been in place, may have. Even, if it only happens rarely, it hurts when it does. Most of us have some sort of experience with it.
And that’s what hit me when reading this surprisingly funny, sharp, readable story and the supporting material in Transcendental Wild Oats and Excerpts from the Fruitlands Diary, published by the Harvard Common Press.
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