Continuing to trace the steps of Little Women: Madeleine B. Stern’s brilliant analysis, part three: Can you tell what’s real and what is made up?

Little Women  has been called autobiographical because Louisa May Alcott used so many episodes from her own childhood and that of her family to create the story. But where does fact end and fiction begin? Or does it even work like that?

Stern says, “Fact was embedded in fiction, and a domestic novel begun in which the local and the universal were married, in which adolescents were clothed in flesh and blood.”

True or False?

play and amy and joLet’s have a little quiz, True or False – is the following a real episode or fiction? Warning: the answer isn’t always black and white so pick True if it’s more black than white and False if the opposite.

Copy the entire list and then put TRUE or FALSE after the statement and we’ll compare notes.

  1. Hannah the servant
  2. The Christmas play (“The Witches’ Curse, an Operatic Tragedy)
  3. Amy burns Jo’s manuscript
  4. Marmee’s temper
  5. Amy falling through the ice
  6. Jo pinching Meg’s papered locks before the ball
  7. Meg being dressed up as a doll at Annie Moffat’s
  8. Amy bewailing her pickled limes
  9. Beth receiving the piano from Mr. Lawrence
  10. Mr. March’s illness
  11. Jo sells her hair.
  12. Beth wasted away and died peacefully.
  13. Jo published her first story, “The Rival Painters.”
  14. Amy writes her own will.
  15. Jo rejects Laurie’s love.

Answers in the next post. Good luck!

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6 Replies to “Continuing to trace the steps of Little Women: Madeleine B. Stern’s brilliant analysis, part three: Can you tell what’s real and what is made up?”

  1. I’ll play along.
    Hannah the servant FALSE
    The Christmas play (“The Witches’ Curse, an Operatic Tragedy) TRUE
    Amy burns Jo’s manuscript FALSE
    Marmee’s temper TRUE
    Amy falling through the ice FALSE
    Jo pinching Meg’s papered locks before the ball FALSE
    Meg being dressed up as a doll at Annie Moffat’s FALSE
    Amy bewailing her pickled limes TRUE
    Beth receiving the piano from Mr. Lawrence FALSE
    Mr. March’s illness FALSE
    Jo sells her hair. FALSE
    Beth wasted away and died peacefully. TRUE
    Jo published her first story, “The Rival Painters.” TRUE
    Amy writes her own will. TRUE
    Jo rejects Laurie’s love. FALSE

  2. 1. They wish! (false)
    2. true
    3. … hopefully false!
    4. true!
    5. false
    6. um…. true
    7. false
    8. true
    9. false
    10. I didn’t know Mr. March was ill? Um. False.
    11. false
    12. false
    13. true
    14. false?
    15. false

  3. I haven’t looked at the answers yet, so I”m going to try the quiz.:
    1. False! Although I’m sure Abba would have loved a servant or two to help.
    2. I can’t remember, but I”ll say true.
    3. False
    4. True
    5. False
    6. True
    7. True? There was no one named Annie Moffett, but I think something like this happened.
    8. True
    9. True-ish. Beth did get a piano-like instrument at one point, though I forget what it is called.
    10. True
    11. True. LMA actually had her head shaved because of her sickness.
    12. False, sadly.
    13. True. LMA’s first book was Flower Fables, but she published stories in papers before that.
    14. False
    15. True-ish. Laurie was based on Alf Whitman and Laddie, the Polish boy LMA met in Europe. There was something going on with the Polish Laddie, according to her letters, but nothing like what happened between Jo and Laurie.

    That was harder than I thought!

    1. Good job! I would quibble with a couple of the answers (see my take in the post following up on the quiz) but what made it hard is that there was partial truth in some of them (such as with the hair incident – Louisa’s head was shaved but it was against her will and she didn’t sell it.) This quiz is a perfect example of how she meshes fact with fiction and how it’s hard to tell the two apart!

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