Rose in Bloom: Charlie

Are you taking part in the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge, sponsored by this blog and In the Bookcase? It’s not too late to jump in! After reading this post, head on over to In the Bookcase and read all about it.

My choice is Rose in Bloom and here is my third post on it:

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I have often found Louisa May Alcott’s books to be fairly predictable. While some of her potboilers consider cruel twists (as in Rosamond’s death in A Long Fatal Love-Chase), even then, it wasn’t that much of a surprise.

However, the tragic life and death of Charlie Campbell in Rose in Bloom really through me for a loop!

Charlie was a man who seemingly had it all: talent, promise charisma and good looks. Art, music, theatre and study all come easily to him, perhaps too easily. He would not settle down and apply himself preferring to enjoy himself. He could have been the shining star of the Campbell clan. But he lacked ambition and character.

cathlin 560

Dr. Cathlin Davis

Dr. Cathlin Davis spoke extensively about talent and genius at the Summer Conversational Series in 2014. She mentioned Charlie’s talent and lack of ambition and concluded that “ambition without love will never attain genius.”

It makes me wonder what would have happened to Charlie had Rose loved him – would that love have turned him around, teaching him how to love in return? It’s interesting that Louisa opted not to take that route as it would have been the predictable one to take — women were so often portrayed as saving men from their lesser selves. In fact, Uncle Alec warned Rose of loving Charlie before he was worthy:

Will you help?” he asked, stopping suddenly with a look that made her stand up straight and strong as she answered with an eager voice: “I will.”

“Then don’t love him yet.”

That startled her, but she asked steadily, though her heart began to beat and her color to come: “Why not?”

“Firstly, because no woman should give her happiness into the keeping of a man without fixed principles; secondly, because the hope of being worthy of you will help him more than any prayers or preaching of mine. Thirdly, because it will need all our wit and patience to undo the work of nearly four and twenty years. You understand what I mean?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Can you say ‘no’ when he asks you to say ‘yes’ and wait a little for your happiness?”

“I can.”

“And will you?”

“I will.”

Thus, instead of the usual “woman saves the man,” the man must save himself first with the idea that the woman will wait for him. Louisa is putting the responsibility solely on Charlie to straighten himself out.

Through Charlie Louisa makes her feelings clear about temperance – alcohol is an evil that destroys lives. Being a drunkard is a source of terrible shame. She uses Rose as the means of stirring up that shame within Charlie. In Chapter 9, “New Year’s Calls,” Rose discerns the true extent of Charlie’s problem with alcohol and becomes fearful of him when drunk:

“Don’t be angry, dearest look at me as you did this morning, and I’ll swear never to sing another note if you say so. I’m only a little gay we drank your health handsomely, and they all congratulated me. Told ’em it wasn’t out yet. Stop, though I didn’t mean to mention that. No matter I’m always in a scrape, but you always forgive me in the sweetest way. Do it now, and don’t be angry, little darling.” And, dropping the vase, he went toward her with a sudden excitement that made her shrink behind the chair.

She was not angry, but shocked and frightened, for she knew now what the matter was and grew so pale, he saw it and asked pardon before she could utter a rebuke.

Rose makes it clear to Charlie that he must give up drinking or she will have nothing to do with him. Eventually she appeals to his better self and he vows to change, even preparing to go away halfway across the world to visit his father to get away from those who would cause his downfall.

And here’s where the story takes a terrible turn. As I read Chapter 15, I hoped against hope it would end differently. Charlie went out to bid farewell to his friends and was not strong enough to resist temptation. Upon coming home that he fell off his horse in his inebriated state and was mortally wounded. Even when Dr. Alec pronounced that there was no hope, I thought for sure Charlie would recover. That chapter ended with bitter tears on my part.

louisaIt also ended with a growing respect for Louisa as a writer who presented life as it truly was – glorious at times, and other times ugly and tragic. She truly loved and respected her younger readers. Dr. Davis is convinced that in spite of the infamous quote (which she is loath to use) of writing “moral pap for the young,” Louisa was in fact proud of her juvenile writing and poured herself into it.

I believe that too.

cathlin davis notesYou can download a PDF file of my notes from Dr. Davis’ presentation at the Summer Conversational Series 2014: dr. cathlin davis talent and genius

How did you feel when Charlie died?

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Rose in Bloom: Phebe’s station in life stands in the way of her becoming a Campbell. Is this just?

Are you taking part in the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge, sponsored by this blog and In the Bookcase? It’s not too late to jump in! After reading this post, head on over to In the Bookcase and read all about it.

My choice is Rose in Bloom and here is my second post on it:

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Living in an era where class distinction is fading (though not fast enough), it is hard to read about Phebe and not wince every now and then. The caste system in Louisa’s time was, of course, de rigueur, and sometimes I wonder if she always recognized how it permeated her writing.

In chapter two of Rose in Bloom, “Old Friends with New Faces,” we find Aunt Plenty welcoming home her two girls with hugs and tears. Phebe tries to steal away but Auntie will have none of it: “Don’t go, there’s room for both in my love …” Phebe responded with grateful tears.

Same, but different

Yet in the next paragraph, Aunt Plenty asked Phebe to dust for her as if things had never changed. And Phebe is more than ready to comply. It is plain that as beloved as she is by the family, Phebe is not a Campbell. Despite being taken to Europe along with Rose, despite returning polished and matured. a career as a professional singer looming, there is that distinction; more subtle than before, but it is still there.

19th versus 21st century sensibilities

Obviously it is unrealistic to expect that Louisa could completely transcend her era. It is unfair to lay our own twenty-first century sensibilities on stories from the past. I commend Louisa, the reformer, for making every effort to overcome what was so engrained in everyone during that time even if occasionally, a little prejudice managed to slip through (yes, I know, I am not taking my own advice!).

Rose certainly saw Phebe as her equal and I believe Mac did too; they share similar ideas and values with regards to a well-lived and purpose-filled life, and about being true to themselves and others. Phebe shared those values and ideas too.

Archie and Phebe

Archie saw nothing but Phebe. You might say Cupid’s arrow slew him with Phebe’s beautiful singing and nothing would stand in the way of him making Phebe his wife. Except for two people he loved dearly–his Aunt Plenty, and Phebe.

phebe0001Duty-bound

In chapter seven Phebe became fully aware of Archie’s intentions and was determined to do her duty:

But Phebe shook her head with a sad smile and answered, still with the hard tone in her voice as if forcing back all emotion that she might see her duty clearly: “You could do that, but I never can. Answer me this, Rose, and answer truly as you love me. If you had been taken into a house, a friendless, penniless, forlorn girl, and for years been heaped with benefits, trusted, taught, loved, and made, oh, so happy! could you think it right to steal away something that these good people valued very much? To have them feel that you had been ungrateful, had deceived them, and meant to thrust yourself into a high place not fit for you when they had been generously helping you in other ways, far more than you deserved. Could you then say as you do now, ‘Be happy, and never mind them’?”

Family name above all

She knew her place. It likely governed her personality which so mirrored Beth March in Little Women. As a twenty-first century woman, I found it hard to see how loving Archie and marrying him would steal him away from the family. The only thing I can think of is that her lowly station would taint the family pool. Much as I love the past, I am so grateful such things as your station in life no longer hold the weight they used to, at least in this country.

Oh Aunt Plenty, you didn’t say that …

I must admit that Aunt Plenty’s response caught me by surprise. Of all the aunts, I thought she would be the most open to the idea. But not so:

“Child, you don’t understand these things yet, but you ought to feel your duty toward your family and do all you can to keep the name as honorable as it always has been. What do you suppose our blessed ancestress Lady Marget would say to our oldest boy taking a wife from the poorhouse?”

More than a wince there; ouch! Recalling how Aunt Plenty had welcomed Phebe home in the same manner as Rose in chapter two, I was quite disappointed in her attitude. But I was very encouraged by Rose’s defense of Phebe, in true Louisa style.

In a predictable angle, Phebe goes away to prevent scandal but it is likely we have not heard the last of this part of the story (no spoilers please!).

Your thoughts

How did Aunt Plenty’s reaction strike you? Did Phebe’s reaction bother you as it did me? I would love to hear more about the importance of protecting the family name during that era as I know many of you are more knowledgeable than me on this subject.

Phebe’s real life alter ego?

As a side note, since I have done so much reading about Lizzie Alcott, I could not help but see her in Phebe. It was yet another way that this shadow sister played a key role in one of Louisa’s books. Lizzie was ever in Louisa’s heart, mind and soul. It got me to wondering just how much feeling she did put into her music–did she too shed a tear while playing a song? Could she sing? Did she use music to express her innermost feelings? I will always remember reading Abba’s journal with the beautifully copied hymn written by Lizzie with meticulous hand, and the cost she paid both physically and emotionally. Music was a wonderful way to show her love to her mother.

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Rose in Bloom: Coming Home

Alcott--RoseinbloombrownAre you taking part in the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge, sponsored by this blog and In the Bookcase? It’s not too late to jump in! After reading this post, head on over to In the Bookcase and read all about it.

My choice is Rose in Bloom and here is my first post on it:

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After hearing Dr. Cathlin Davis’ presentation on talent and genius at the Summer Conversational Series (see previous post), I became interested in reading Rose in Bloom which she cited extensively. I never though to look at this story through the lens of talent and genius but right away in Chapter One, “Coming Home,” I saw it.

Several of you have mentioned how much you love this book; some of you liked it even better than Little Women. I thought the book had a strong start and I look forward to reading it.

Rose comes home

The story of the Rose Campbell and her cousins picks up two years later as Rose, Phebe and Doctor Alec return from a long trip abroad. Everyone except the youngest (Jamie) has matured into young men and women. Both Rose and Phebe have flourished during their European trip and the young men have noticed.

rose and her cousins

Of the cousins, three stood out for me:

  • Mac, the studious one, is able to pick up where he left off with Rose; they are very comfortable with one another
  • Charlie is still sowing his wild oats; he has his eye on Rose (and her fortune). There’s something almost sinister about him; it reminds me of how I first felt about Tempest in The Long Fatal Love-Chase. I will interested in seeing where this leads.
  • Archie lost his heart to Phebe having hear her sing.

eight cousins the clanLouisa sets up several interesting scenarios in this chapter; the book so far feels less formulaic to me. Little Women (at first) and Little Men seemed more like a collection of short stories. Eight Cousins had a running thread but it too felt like a collection of vignettes. An Old-Fashioned Girl had more of an arc (although I still hated the ending); Rose in Bloom appears to be similar; hope it has a better ending!

HIGHLIGHTS

How boys and girls are raised

Uncle Alec’s reflection on how boys and girls were raised was interesting. He felt that the aunts were in too much of a hurry to “bring out” Rose causing him to question why girls were so sheltered in comparison to boys and why they were not better prepared to meet the challenges of life. Reasoning that even privileged girls will face unexpected hardships, he had sought to prepare his Rose: “We do our duty better by the boys; but the poor little women are seldom provided with any armor worth having. Sooner or later they are sure to need it, for everyone must fight his own battle, and only the brave and strong can win.”

Undoubtedly Louisa was thinking of the hardships of her own life and whether she was, in fact, well-prepared for battle. By her very nature she was the “son” of the family and faced hardships straight on. She might have been thinking of Anna and Lizzie who were not so hardy and perhaps wondered about how well-prepared they were for hardship. Anna eventually prevailed through she struggled a great deal; Lizzie did not.

Rose has purpose

rose in bloomNo hero or heroine coming from the pen of Louisa was going to lead a life without purpose. Rose meant to lead her life with intent and Uncle Alec meant for her to live that way. She was going to do something good with her life and her fortune:

“I have made up my mind not to be cheated out of the real things that make one good and happy; and just because I’m a rich girl, fold my hands and drift as so many do, I haven’t lived with Phebe all these years in vain, I know what courage and self-reliance can do for one; and I sometimes wish I hadn’t a penny in the world so that I could go and earn my bread with her, and be as brave and independent as she will be pretty soon.”

This was in response to Charlie who had said, “Because we know that there is only one thing for a pretty girl to do–break a dozen or so of hearts before she finds one to suit; then marry and settle.” Rose was not happy!

Phebe’s talent

Louisa’s description of Phebe’s gift of song was wonderful. Once a raw talent singing over her pots and pans, Phebe has been schooled, developed and refined as a singer. Comfortable in her technique she could pour her herself into her singing;  it stirred the heart of Archie for the first time such that he fell in love with her on the spot.

Louisa obviously understood and appreciated music although she had no talent for it herself. Little Women suggests that Marmee could sing and that Beth played the piano with great feeling. Louisa understood the power of music to communicate to the heart thus creating a moving scene with Phebe and Archie:

“No longer shy and silent, no longer the image of a handsome girl, but with a blooming woman, alive and full of eloquence her art gave her, as she laid her hands softly together, fixed her eye on the light, and just poured out her song as simply and joyfully as the lark does soaring towards the sun.”

Mac and Rose

Of all the cousins, Mac understood Rose best, preferring girls with purpose, girls who are hearty and thoughtful. As Phebe stirred Archie’s heart with her song, Rose stirred Mac with her manner: “ … thanks to Doctor Alec’s guardianship, she had wasted neither heart nor time in the foolish flirtations so many girls fritter away their youth upon.” He took her by surprise with a kiss as they parted which she felt was inappropriate due to their age. Sometimes tells me this will not be the last kiss!

What did you think? No spoilers please :-)

Eight Cousins preceded Rose in Bloomhere is where you can find my posts on that book.

Remember to check out the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge at In the Bookcase.

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My choice for the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge is … ? And what’s yours?

I choose …

rose in bloom

And I promise lots of interesting posts!

What’s your choice? Visit In the Bookcase, scroll to the bottom and enter what you will be reading into the Linky.

And then, let’s starting reading! And talking.  Fun times ahead!

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Announcing my first book, “River of Grace,” to be published this Fall!

River of Grace is available for pre-order through Amazon.com.

I am pleased to announce that my very first book, River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times will be released this Fall, published by Ave Maria Press!

You can pre-order it now on Amazon.com.

A memoir with life application

River of Grace is a faith-based memoir (written from my Roman Catholic tradition) with life application exercises, offering true and hopeful stories of growth and transformation after hard losses.

amy belding brownAmy Belding Brown, author of Mr. Emerson’s Wife (see review) and Flight of the Sparrow (see review) writes:

“Susan Bailey’s powerful and beautifully-written book is much more than an insightful spiritual memoir. River of Grace is also a brilliant reflection on the connections between creativity and grace. Deeply grounded in a profound Christian faith, the author chronicles her personal experiences of loss and shows how they were transformed as she learned to accept and respond to new challenges. This wonderful book also includes a valuable assortment of exercises that will enrich your spiritual life and gently guide you to confront your own difficulties and deepen your relationship with God. Anyone who seeks to discern God’s purposes in life’s most challenging situations will find this book one to cherish.”

Seasons of loss

louisa loses lizzieJust about all of us can cite a time in our lives whether now or in the past, where we have lost something precious to us.

  • Perhaps it’s been the death of a parent or a child.
  • Or, you yourself are suffering through a long illness.
  • It could be a long stretch of unemployment causing financial difficulties, even the loss of your home.
  • Maybe you’ve lost a best friend due to a falling out.
  • Perhaps you’ve recently put down a beloved pet.

These are all serious losses that tear at us, causing grief or anxiety or anger. Where do we find the strength to pick up the pieces and carry on?

Could a serious loss signal a new life, even a transformed life?

This is what I write about in River of Grace, beginning with the loss of my parents and then my singing voice. Through the means of a kayak and my love for Louisa May Alcott, I believe that God led me on amazing, joy-filled and sometimes crazy adventure within his river of grace, leading up to this book and beyond.

Louisa May Alcott’s story, and my story

louisa may alcott for widgetLouisa’s life and writing played a central role in my journey from loss and grief to creative rebirth and a life transformed. In River of Grace you will find out how I came to find Louisa again, how she spoke to me through her life and works, and how I came to create the community known as Louisa May Alcott is My Passion.

Writing through the ages that offers comfort

Louisa May Alcott’s candid and heartfelt writing provided much consolation after I lost my mother to a long illness. This  beloved 19th-century author spoke to my own season of loss.

Reading through “Mommy’s” copies of Little Women, An Old-Fashioned Girl and Aunt Jo’s Scrap-bag drew me out of numbing grief and reunited me with the mother I called my best friend and confidant.

aunt jo's scrap-bag combined

Awakening the creative spirit

By immersing myself into all things Alcott, my long dormant creative life came to life again and led me to places I never would have dreamed possible.

Understanding for the first time what true creativity is, I show in this book how such creativity is for everyone, not just for those who possess certain talents.

Stories and tools

River of Grace is not just book of stories. I provide practical tools so that you too can go on your amazing adventure. These “Flow Lessons” appear throughout the book and will also be available on this website.

In the weeks to come, I will share quotes and stories from River of Grace. Please spread the word to everyone you know who has gone through a season of loss or is just looking to jump start their spiritual and creative lives.

Available in many formats

River of Grace will be available as a print book, e-book and audio book (through Audible.com and iTunes). Just this past week I started the process of recording the book. My thanks to producer extraordinaire Ron Zabrocki for his expertise (he produced several of my music CDs).

recording montage

Here is more on River of Grace:

Writing River of Grace and having it published by such a well-respected publisher is a dream come true. I would definitely classify it as a “crazy adventure!”

River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult TimesPlease share this post on Facebook, on Twitter, on Pinterest, through email with anyone whom you think would benefit from reading my book. Feel free to share the book cover. Your recommendation is the best way to get the word out.

I will let you know just as soon as it is available when you can order River of Grace. Signing up for my email list is the best way to be the first to know.

I can’t wait to share this book with you!

 

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Louisa Links of the Week (formerly known as Fun and Fascinating Links)

Lots of great links this week!

Through the month of May, the Concord Public Library is celebrating 160 years of Flower Fables, Louisa May Alcott’s first book. They will have displays (including the first edition of the book), children’s activities and a visit with “Louisa” herself in the form of Jan Turnquist, executive director of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. come and join in the fun!  Go to the Events page for more details.

Flower Fables, original printing 1855, from the Concord Free Public Library Special Collections; used with permission

Flower Fables, original printing 1855, from the Concord Free Public Library Special Collections; used with permission

On a wonderful site called “Stuff You Missed in History Class” is a podcast about Bronson Alcott and May Alcott Nieriker.

bronson and may

And here is a re-broadcast from the BBC about the life of Louisa. The program is called “Great Lives”, which asks a guest to choose their hero from history and then brings in an expert to talk about the person. Thanks to Hilary from England for this link.

Finally, two new episodes from The March Family Letters:

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Jo’s evolution as a creative, and as a woman

jo writing (norman rockwell)What did Jo March  mean when she said she wanted to create something “spendid?”

Perhaps gaining recognition for her writing. Maybe even being hailed as a great writer. Writing a book of artistic merit and universality that would stand the test of time.

Yet we find in Little Women that Jo’s goals would evolve from that solitary act of writing into a communal creation: a school for boys, founded in partnership with her new husband, Professor Bhaer. In the end, I believe she satisfied her desire to create something “splendid.”

Why caused her goals to change?

I’d like to offer my opinion and then I’d love to hear from you!

Here’s my theory.

A necessary act

joWriting was a legitimate and necessary creative activity for Jo. It helped her to release the tremendous energy inside of her that otherwise might have expressed itself in negative ways.  She had talent and much to share.

A practical way to help

Never happy to sit on the sidelines, Jo used her writing to help her family in practical ways as they coped with Mr. March’s absence along with poverty. Besides providing money, her stories entertained the others.

A means of retreat

Writing was a means of escape. Holed up in the garret, Jo could avoid dealing with growing up, something with which she was in open rebellion.

Meg and John get married; Father presides.

Meg and John get married; Father presides.

She fought vehemently against the idea of the family unit being changed with the addition of boyfriends/husbands (recalling her reaction to Meg and John, and her rejection of Laurie as a husband). As long as the immediate family remained intact, she could continue as she was. Womanhood was a frightening prospect as Jo feared it would restrain her spirit. She was like a wild colt refusing to be broken.

A means of verification

burning fireplaceWriting verified Jo as a person when nothing else would. When Amy destroyed Jo’s manuscript it was like Jo herself was burnt to a crisp in the fireplace. I believe Jo perceived Amy’s deed as an act of violence against her very self; therefore the depth of her rage was justified in her own mind, until it put Amy’s own life in peril. It was at this point that Jo’s creative energy (anger being a great force) posed a danger to herself and others.

A way to avoid the truth

Writing was an act that drew Jo into herself, far away from the real world into that safe place of fantasy which gave her consolation. Sometimes that withdrawal could be beneficial, particularly when her emotions were getting the better of her. But often that withdrawal was an escape from a reality she had to face–she could not remain a child forever.

The turning point

Coming to terms with the inevitable

Coming to terms with the inevitable

I believe the watershed moment for Jo was in her grief after she lost Beth.

Anyone who has grieved over someone knows that such a time can transform one’s life. Whether that transformation takes you forward in growth or leaves you behind, mired in the mud, is a singular choice.

A new idea of “splendid”

At first, willing to do anything to please the sister she so loved and admired, Jo agreed to Beth’s terms: to leave behind her old ambitions of doing something “splendid” to take on the more noble (and needed) task of caring for her parents. She soon found her promise hard to keep when faced with the prospect of living it out without the physical presence of her sister nearby as example:

“… something like despair came over her when she thought of spending all her life in that quiet house, devoted to humdrum cares, a few small pleasures, and the duty that never seemed to grow any easier. ‘I can’t do i. I wasn’t meant for a life like this, and I know I shall break away and do something desperate if somebody doesn’t come and help me.’ she said to herself, when her first efforts failed and she fell into the moody, miserable state of mind which often comes when strong will have to yield to the inevitable.” (from Chapter 42 of Little Women)

A desire to be good

As Jo had lost herself in her writing, she had also been consumed with nursing Beth. Louisa May Alcott herself believed she had a call to nursing that was nearly as strong as her call to be a writer. It was what gave her the courage to become a Civil War nurse. I believe that in nursing Beth (or in Louisa’s case, Lizzie), Jo found a way to be truly virtuous–acting out of sacrificial love for her sister. As much as she desired to live out her creative life, Jo wished also to be good. It was Louisa’s wish too, ingrained in her from her earliest days.

Finding consolation outside of writing

Where once writing provided the consolation, now the counsel of mother and father provided the comfort. Jo was learning to reach out to others rather than retreat into her fantasy world. While she had certainly confided in her parents before, it was more as a child looking for direction. Now she could confide in her parents as an equal, woman to woman, and woman to man:

“Then, sitting in Beth’s little chair close beside him, Jo told her troubles … she gave him entire confidence, he gave her the help she needed, and both found consolation in the act. For the time had come when could talk together not only as father and daughter, but as man and woman, able and glad to serve each other with mutual sympathy as well as  mutual love.” (Ibid)

Moving forward

Jo agreed to the process of the grief journey,  moving ahead rather than staying behind. She soon grew to find meaning in the mundane household tasks:

“Brooms and dish cloths never could be as distasteful as they once had been, for Beth had presided over both, and something of her housewifely spirit seemed to linger around the little mop and the old bush, never thrown away.” (Ibid)

The beginning of adulthood

In the process, a change took place within Jo, a capacity to long for love outside of her immediate family unit. It was the beginning of her maturing into an adult. Meg saw the potential, urging Jo to consider love:

“It’s just what you need to bring out the tender womanly half of your nature, Jo. You are like a chestnut burr, prickly outside, but silky-soft within, and a sweet kernal, if one can only get at hit. Love will make you show your heart one day, and the rough burr will fall off.” (Ibid)

And indeed, grief would prove to be the tool that would pave the way for “Grief is the best opener” as Louisa writes in chapter 42.

Learning to be herself

Little Women October 12, 2004 Credit Photo ©Paul Kolnik NYCJo tried to justify that living for her parents and not for herself was the “something splendid” that she had desired, but in fact that “something” was missing. In denying herself and living as Beth would, Jo was not living the life to which she was called. The suppression of her creative energy depleted that which fueled her joy, which made life exciting and delicious. It took her mother urging her to write again, even if just to entertain the family, for Jo to find that energy again and bring it back to life. It eventually lead to real success for her as a writer.

Issuing an invitation

And in the end it would be a poem she had written about the four chests in the garret that would issue an invitation (unbeknown to her) to a certain professor to seek out the woman he loved. This time she was ready, having recognized the loneliness in her life:

“I’d like to try all kinds. It’s very curious, but the more I try to satisfy myself with all sorts of natural affections, the more I seem to want. I’d no idea hearts could take in so many. Mine is so elastic, it never seems full now, and I used to be quite contented with my family. I don’t understand it.” (Ibid)

In this admission, Jo embraced adulthood, seeing beyond her tight family unit for the first time.

Lost or found?

jo and professor bhaerSome would argue that Jo in fact lost herself becoming a woman as she did not, in the end, become a writer. Instead, she marries her professor and founds a school for boys with him, using a gift from a most unexpected source–Aunt March’s Plumfield.

Was Jo’s evolution a sell-out by the author?

While it is well known that Louisa would have preferred keeping Jo single and writing, I do not get the sense that Jo was at all unhappy or feeling compromised with her decision to marry or to found the school. It is true that Louisa was compelled by her publisher and her fans to give Little Women a more conventional ending but the evolution of her fictional self from “wild colt” to mature woman felt natural to me. The creative energy Jo had once poured into writing could now be poured into making life better for unfortunate boys. Anyone who has been a teacher knows the creative fire burns bright within, expressing itself in so many ways.

Creativity and community

the boys at plumfieldJo had evolved from a solitary, strong-willed child who sought escape in her creativity (and who sometimes was controlled by its darker side), to a woman comfortable within a community, using her creativity to make life better for others. It is my belief that the giving away of what we have (and having it accepted gratefully by others) makes makes the creative act worthwhile and satisfying.

Jo March succeeded in her desire to create something “splendid.”

That’s my theory; what’s yours? Go for it!

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