Harriet Reisen, author of Louisa May Alcott The Woman Behind Little Women, sent me this. It’s interesting and fun to see the comparisons. I’d love to hear what you think!
Thanks, Harriet, for this contribution!
Asked to compare Louisa May Alcott’s fictional sisters to her real four, I find that they are inextricable in my mind, as I suspect they were in Louisa’s. That she found it impossible to write of Amy March after the death of May Alcott suggests that to me. I find the beginning of Jo’s Boys almost unbearably touching for its image of Amy March in a terrestrial heaven (“Mount Parnassus”).
Little Women led me to Louisa Alcott, of course. It tells a great deal about her, and is her masterpiece, but her works, her life, and her times, are quite different, and much more than that one wonderful novel. I re-read Little Women only once for the book – I needed to read the 23 other books she wrote, not to mention poems, short stories, journals, letters, etc – and so you, dear readers, are undoubtedly more expert than I am on the fine points of the Alcott versus the March sisters. I would love to know how you would flesh out and/or change this chart, esp.
Here’s my chart, a Wikipedia entry in the making?
|Alcott Family||March Family|
|grueling poverty, hungry||genteel poverty, had a servant|
|teenage years 1840s||teenage years 1860s|
|teen years lived in Hillside house||teen years lived in Orchard House|
|moved some 30 times||had one home|
|Louisa was nurse in Civil War||Mr. March was minister in Civil War|
|were social and political activists||concerned with plight of poor|
|Anna Alcott||Meg March|
|plain but loved beautiful things||beautiful (“Someone had to be”-LMA)|
|married John Pratt, amateur actor||married John Brooke, tutor|
|married at age 29||married in early 20s|
|two boys, Fred and John||girl and boy twins, Daisy and Demi|
|Louisa Alcott||Josephine March|
|nicknamed Louy||nicknamed Jo|
|tempestuous and moody||“wild nature”|
|independent in Boston||supervised in New York|
|serious about acting and theater||theater a beloved childhood pastime|
|had hair cut off while very ill||sold her long hair|
|was seamstress, laundress, servant||was aide to wealthy Aunt March|
|had no children||had two boys|
|lived in Boston mansion; 10 servants||lived at Plumfield College, not wealthy|
|Elizabeth Peabody/Sewall Alcott||Beth March|
|called “Lizzie,” “Betty,” rarely “Beth”||called “Beth”|
|died age 23||died age 16|
|“her pretty hair all gone” at death||loss of hair not mentioned|
|enjoyed playing music||was musically gifted|
|intended never to leave home||asked Jo to take her place at home|
|Abigail May Alcott (May)||Amy March|
|accomplished artist, worked hard||things came easily to her|
|attracted benefactors (Aunt Bond)||attracted benefactors (Aunt March)|
|graceful, poised at young age||graceful, poised at young age|
|gave free art lessons||somewhat self-centered and vain|
|chosen for Paris salon twice||became a professional artist|
|married at age 37||married in early 20s|
|died at 39 after birth of Lulu||happy and benevolent; mother of Bess|
To see other ways that Louisa was not Jo March, check out this video. It’s less than a minute, and it’s funny. –Harriet Reisen
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