Just a quickie today from Eight Cousins, chapter 5, “A Belt and a Box.”
First, the Belt
Uncle Alec jumped right in with regards to Rose’s health and welfare by suggesting that she take a run. He noticed her panting and suggested she loosen her belt so that she could breathe more deeply. It turned into a treatise about about true beauty and happiness as he compared her to Phebe, the girl from the poorhouse whom she was so attracted to (and who was very robust):
“If you dear little girls would only learn what real beauty is, and not pinch and starve and bleach yourselves out so, you’d save an immense deal of time and money and pain. A happy soul in a healthy body makes the best sort of beauty for man or woman.” (bold italic is my emphasis)
Suffering for beauty
Doesn’t that sound like something straight out of today’s headlines regarding teenage girls and anorexia/bulimia? Nothing much has changed, has it? And on a smaller scale, think of the 3 to 5 inch heels women wear (and endure) so their legs will look better. Remember Madonna stumbling on her heels during the Super Bowl half time show?
I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me – women doing extreme things to themselves in order to achieve a certain kind of beauty (and all of this approved of and encouraged by society) has been going on since women came to be! I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Louisa had an uncanny ability to tap into about topics that transcend time. It’s no wonder new generations of readers keep finding her.
The voice of the author
Alec really does have Louisa’s voice. It makes sense since she thought more in male terms rather than female (although she definitely had her own vanities, especially regarding clothes and hair). Sometimes I think I do too even though I never had the physical ability to live the life of a tomboy (I just lived it in my head).
And then, the Box
Later, we come upon the “box” where Rose is showered with treasures. She thinks of her new friend Phebe and wants to share her goodies with her as if Phebe were her sister. “Adoption” is the way and Phebe is deeply touched by the gesture. Sure, it’s a corny scene but Rose’s impulsive generosity and affection for Phebe is very cool.
Do you think Alec is Louisa in male form? What did you think of his advice to Rose?
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