Haven’t you often wondered just how the March family lost their fortune? Haven’t you wanted to know more about Marmee’s temper and how her husband helped her control it? Brooks offers interesting scenarios.
Addressing the latter first, we are all familiar with the heart-to-heart talk Marmee had with Jo about their respective tempers. In chapter 8, “Jo Meets Apollyon,” Amy is nearly killed because Jo could not subdue her temper. She feels deep remorse at her hesitation to save Amy from drowning after falling through the ice.
Seeking out her mother, Jo tearfully confesses and is astonished to hear Marmee say, “I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo, but I have learned not to show it, and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.”
She goes on to say that through the the love and patience of her husband, she learned to control her anger. In March, her husband says, “I tried to teach her something about her new place, giving her to understand, with gentle hints and loving guidance, that what might be considered lapses born of high spirits in a young maiden were in no way proper in one who was now a mother and a wife.”
Brooks fills in the blanks
Brooks describes Marmee’s passionate anger, expressed by fiery eyes and cutting tongue, as often being brought on by the discussion of slavery and abolition. Here Brooks draws upon Abba Alcott’s story, painting Marmee as a committed reformer.
In one scene, Marmee lashes out at Mr. Emerson, chastising him for his lukewarm talk about abolition and urging him to take a stronger stand. Being an active part of the Underground Railroad, she is convinced of the righteousness of her cause and has no qualms attacking someone publicly if they do not live up to her expectations.
In another instance, she stands up to Aunt March after the old woman comments that “slavery is more a matter of prayer than protest. Preferably, silent prayer.”
Marmee’s anger cuts like a knife and March gives her the agreed-upon signal – an index finger placed upon his lips – to remind her to restrain herself. When the atmosphere fails to improve, he sweeps her away from the scene, determined that she will “walk off” her anger.
An example of serenity
March is concerned about the example Marmee is setting, especially with second daughter Jo who shows the same propensity for passion. Marmee does not wish to reign in Jo’s spirit, claiming it will be crushed soon enough, but March insists that she teach Jo to restrain herself. Just like Bronson, March favors serenity and insists his wife and daughters practice it.
In the next post, I will describe the back story that Brooks lays out which describes how the March family lost their fortune.
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