Beth’s influence is revealed; Jo and Laurie’s friendship grows; Amy shows some mettle

Just finished chapters 18 and 19, describing Beth’s bout with scarlet fever, and Amy’s ‘exile’ with Aunt March.

Scarlet fever sounds like a pretty frightening illness, and we all know it inevitably led to Beth’s death later on in the book. It’s interesting how she really came to the forefront as a result of the illness. She was no longer invisible. Everyone in the family and beyond started remembering all she had done for them. Much as she tried to do good behind the scenes, it came out in the open. Goodness cannot be hidden for long.

Beth was pretty influential for someone who had a hard time asserting herself. Jo called Beth “her conscience” and couldn’t bear the thought of being parted from her. It makes me wonder if Beth was one of the reasons why Jo was strong.  To be able to influence someone that profoundly shows the power that Beth wielded even if she was unaware of it. But something tells me she wasn’t so unaware of that power.

Laurie was a true hero during the dark days of Beth’s illness. His care of Jo and Amy especially was very touching. The scene between Jo and Laurie when he became her strength was so beautiful. I am really enjoying how carefully Louisa is building this relationship.

Amy came to realize her sister’s value and vowed to be more like her. She showed the first signs of maturity during her time with Aunt March, particularly under the influence of Aunt March’s long time live-in maid, Esther. Her authentic spirituality had a profound affect on Amy, teaching her how to be introspective for the first time and helping her to look beyond herself. As a Catholic, I appreciated the fair and thoughtful treatment that Louisa gave through Esther even though I had read that she had issues with Catholicism as many did during that era.

Amy’s will was very interesting; it seemed to act as a primer to help Amy learn to give of herself. Although she very much wanted Aunt March’s turquoise ring after she learned she might earn it through her good behavior, in the end she realized her sister Beth’s recovery was far more important. This was Amy’s first step towards maturity and it was good to see.

As an aside, I sure wish my late mother had been here while reading about Aunt March’s parrot, Polly! My mother had a voice that any bird would have loved. She couldn’t keep a tune but she’d sing to birds and they loved it! I remember she once sang “Ode to Joy” to my cousin’s parrot and he went nuts! He was absolutely enamored with my mom and I swear, she could have taught that bird to talk in no time. Polly sounded so much like a parrot in my mother’s childhood, Walter. Louisa’s sharp sense of humor really shown in her descriptions of Polly – I was laughing out loud every time she described him, and I would have loved to have shared that with my mom. Those descriptions left me with very pleasant memories.

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