Chapter 38 of Little Women, “On the Shelf” again showed me what a keen observer Louisa was. She never married nor bore any children yet her description of Meg and John’s adjustment to parenthood was dead on. I listened to the audio book with my mouth open just about the whole time, in awe at how real, and familiar, this chapter was.
This line brought back vivid memories: “As she was a womanly little woman, the maternal instinct was very strong, and she was entirely absorbed in her children, to the utter exclusion of everything and everybody else.” When our son was born nearly 25 years ago, I fell head over heels in love. I often say that the first six weeks of his life were the happiest and most peaceful in mine. For the first time in my life, I had only one thing that I thought about and that was Stephen. I was blessed with an easy baby – no colic, sunny disposition, good sleeper – but even if he had been difficult, I still would have been like Meg. My poor husband patiently waited until I emerged from my bubble and realized he was there again.
It’s no wonder John sought comfort from his neighbors and Meg was fortunate his solution was so benign. She was also fortunate to have a mother who loved her enough to tell her the truth, pointing out Meg’s neglect of John. Marmee’s advice was perfect, as always.
The ending of the chapter was priceless. I winced and smiled as I listened to the chapter and heard of Demi’s naughtiness just as Meg and John were having their first bit of quality time together. It was so real and again, so familiar. I loved how John handled the problem, gently but firmly showing Meg where she was going wrong in catering to Demi.
As I listened, I kept thinking, “How did Louisa know such detail?” It was like she was a fly on the wall. Obviously she observed her older sister Anna and husband John Pratt with their two children but I still was amazed at her powers of observation. Louisa must have been an intensely curious person!
One of our ‘regulars,’ Meg North, has a wonderful blog about balancing writing and business, and is conducting a month long creative writing class. Her class on characters addresses these very issues of curiosity and the observation of people, and how important these elements are in the creation of memorable characters, which Meg says is vital to a book being good. Louisa certainly was a master craftsman in those areas, which makes reading Little Women such a joy.