Louisa May Alcott was an astute observer of life. Her description of Meg and John’s first year of marriage in Chapter 28 of Little Women, Domestic Experiences, amazed me with its accuracy. She obviously studied her sister Anna and brother-in-law John Pratt’s marriage carefully, probably without even realizing it. Her keen mind picked up on so many subtle details, from the way Meg managed her household, and her trials and tribulations as a new wife, to how the couple managed their money and the impact it had on them. She dealt so beautifully with many issues so vital to a good marriage: sacrificial love, trust, and conflict.
When I began the chapter, I thought I would be bored but right away it captured my interest. The last portion was especially gripping, watching the dance between a husband and wife dealing with conflicts over finances, guilt and trust. I was very touched by Meg’s sacrifice of her silk dress so her husband could have the coat he needed. It wasn’t a sacrifice just to assuage guilt, but a sacrifice of love.
Louisa remained a spinster out of choice, to retain her freedom. The observations she made of her parents’ marriage coupled with her own independent spirit of unconventionality (and the trauma that was Fruitlands, where her parents nearly split up) formed her choice. She could have presented a very bitter, negative view of marriage (and may have been tempted to do so) but she didn’t. Instead she presented a very realistic view of a marriage that would be not only successful, but fulfilling to both husband and wife.
It amazes me more and more how Little Women, written strictly out of obligation, has so much heart. The characters are unfolding like beautiful flowers, layers and layers with such subtlety. These girls are so real and timeless, and this book, pure genius. The author was eminently pragmatic yet utterly inspired as well (whether she knew it or not).
While I loved Part One, Part Two captivates me even more. There is so much more to explore with young adults; the moral issues are much deeper. It saddens me that different religious institutions back in the day banned this book from their Sunday School shelves. Louisa’s spirituality was very deep and perhaps too subtle for rigid and narrow minded religious thinkers. I find the moral lessons in Little Women to be compelling and multi-layered.
I can hardly wait to blog on Chapter 30, Consquences. That chapter really blew me away. But that post will have to wait until tomorrow. 🙂