Beth finds the palace beautiful

I had been reading Little Women in bits and pieces over the summer but now I am fully immersing myself in it. Although I read some of it for school many years ago, I never finished it nor appreciated it. I actually decided to start it again when I began reading Kelly O’Connor McNees’ book, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott since she had mentioned it in the preface. I thought it would better enhance the reading of her book.

I admit to you that I have never understood why Little Women is so beloved. I found the writing style to be too sweet and sentimental; I just couldn’t relate to the characters. And I felt left out – I wanted to know what every other Little Women fan knew.

Thanks to my reading binge this summer of McNees’ book, Reisen’s book (Louisa May Alcott The Woman Behind Little Women) and Ticknor’s (May Alcott A Memoir), I decided I must immerse myself in Little Women for all the tidbits I could learn about the Alcott family.

And so I’ve been reading (and listening to the audio book too), and now I am entering into the world of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.

Beth has always been the character I was drawn to, probably because of her premature death. I realize that there were many Beths in the 19th century, but I never could understand how someone like that could even survive in this harsh world.

Chapter 6 of Little Women, “Beth Finds the Palace Beautiful” is such a poignant chapter. The relationship that develops between Mr. Laurence and Beth is so touching. I listened to the audio book yesterday and it brought tears to my eyes. Poignancy is one of Louisa’s true strong points as a writer. She really knows how to make a beeline to the heart of the reader. I could so feel Beth’s longing to play the grand piano, her struggle to overcome her shyness and fear, and her excitement at the offer to come over and play Mr. Laurence’s piano anytime she wanted (in secret as she desired). Her joy, excitement and gratitude was palpable when she received Mr. Laurence’s gift – the piano that belonged to the late granddaughter that she reminded him of. I could see so clearly in my mind that lovely scene of her sitting in his lap, giving him a kiss, and the healing it brought him to hold her close.

I find Beth’s care of her invalid dolls to be very touching as well. It’s good to get to know Louisa’s “shadow sister” Lizzie through this character.

It amazes me how Louisa could churn this book out from a sense of obligation to her publisher as there is so much heart in its pages. Amazing. I can’t wait to read more and I just wish I hadn’t waited so long!

6 Replies to “Beth finds the palace beautiful”

  1. Yes, the book is sentimental in places, but most 19th century novels are. There is real starch in the characters, and that must be why the book is and was beloved by girls trying to grow up in a society which sets up plenty of restrictions and expectations.

    1. I think I would appreciate the March girls more if I knew more about what girls had to deal with in the 19th century. I wish I could read it with that mentality, I bet it was amazing! You’re right though, there is a lot of meat to these characters.

  2. What does it mean to say that there is real starch in someone? Isn’t starch something stiff? And I don’t get “a lot of meat to these characters,” neither. 🙂

    I would think that you were saying that characters of the March sisters are so appealing because they are modeled after real life sisters. You can’t help but be sympathetic to all their struggles. I especially like chapter 4 – Burdens, where each sister’s unique personality is described and their burdens, their individual imperfections. You can see that transcendental stress on “perfecting oneself” was deeply ingrained in Louisa.

    I have another question about English.”Poignancy,” is that something that makes you sad, but it’s not pathetic?

    1. You’ll learn lots of English expressions and slang reading blogs! 🙂 When someone says there is “starch” or “meat,” they mean substance. The characters in Little Women are fleshed out and have many dimensions to them.

      The dictionary definition of poignant is “affecting or moving the emotions: as in a poignant scene.” That’s one of the definitions anyway. That’s what I meant to convey.

      That’s cool how you picked up on the transcendental influence regarding perfecting oneself. Chapter 8, which I just listened to today and will write on tomorrow expands on this, it seems. Chapter 8 is an incredibly powerful piece of writing! She touches on so many emotions. More tomorrow . . . 🙂

  3. The book is best appreciated by 10 year old girls. I LOVED Little Women when I was 10-11. I identified so strongly with Jo and shy Beth. I was enchanted by their world and the fun they had through they were poor. As an adult, I find the book preachy, too much in the style of 19th century women’s domestic fiction and too heavy on the Transcendental philosophy. (Eight Cousins is also heavy on Transcendentalism).

    1. I didn’t read Little Women until I was 50-something, a couple of years ago and I really loved it. I really do enjoy moral stories and loved the spiritual development of each sister. Louisa is preachy but she also writes so authentically about feelings and tragedy. Eight Cousins I just haven’t been able to finish. It felt very formula-like. Someday I’ll finish …

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