Chapter VI. Beth Finds the Palace Beautiful

In my opinion, a truly new reflection on Beth and the loveliest I have ever read. Thank you Sandra Burr!

Little Women 150

By Sandra Burr

As a ten-year-old, I didn’t know what to make of Beth. She never seemed solid, unlike her sisters. Meg was worldly because she was sixteen and seemed closest to my high-school babysitters and their mysterious algebra homework. Jo was lively and talkative and always up to something, and Amy was snooty and generally repulsive. Those three sisters made sense. Beth didn’t—probably because I couldn’t grasp who she was.

I’ve learned a thing or two since I was ten, and Beth, while still elusive, presents a mystery today far more fascinating than algebra! What animates her beyond gentle timidity and maternal leanings?  I decided to use Chapter 6, “Beth Finds the Palace Beautiful,” to delve into this question, hoping to find something real about Beth as she finds something real in and through the Palace Beautiful next door.

This chapter focuses on Beth’s musicality, which strikes me…

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Chapter V. Being Neighborly

A lovely post about Jo’s first meetup with Laurie, and reminder to us all to be good neighbors.

Little Women 150

By Sarah Wadsworth

Looking through the clear plastic dust jacket of my childhood copy of Little Women is like peering through a window: behind the transparent “pane,” Marmee plays the piano while the girls joyously sing. Inside, a bookplate signed in my neatest thirteen-year-old hand takes me from the Marches’ parlor to my own family home. I turn the page and an inscription—”December 1976 / Merry Christmas Sarah”—calls to mind the kindness of the giver to a book-loving girl growing up, like Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, in a home defined by a father’s absence as well as a mother’s presence.

In “Being Neighborly,” kindness is key. The adjective “kind” appears four times, “kindly” three times, and “kinder” once. Kindness is made manifest in acts of thoughtful generosity, each one begetting reciprocal acts in kind. Eager to make friends, Jo arrives at the Laurence house bearing three kittens from Beth…

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Chapter IV. Burdens

From the new Little Women 150 blog reflecting each week on a chapter in Alcott’s classic, here is chapter four: Little Women 150 By Sandra Harbert Petrulionis The central concerns of “Burdens” may be character development and self-education, but within its domestic lessons, this chapter also foregrounds the inequities of Civil War- era America. It …

Chapter III. The Laurence Boy

From the new Little Women 150 blog reflecting each week on a chapter in Alcott’s classic, here is chapter three:

Little Women 150

We are going to experiment this week by offering two different perspectives on the same chapter, both by distinguished Alcott scholars. The ways they complement each other, intersect, and diverge are fascinating. Enjoy!

Take One

By Eve LaPlante

In the gender-bending world of Little Women, the Laurence boy plays an important role. A lovely, compassionate, accommodating young man with a girl’s name, Laurie serves as a mirror to our heroine, Jo, a daring and ambitious young woman with a “gentlemanly demeanor” and a male-sounding name. It’s clear from the start that Laurie and Jo are a pair, two cross-gendered friends who seem more typical of the modern era than a century and a half in the past.

It seems fair to ask – given that Jo and her sisters were inspired by the four Alcott girls and that no Alcott boy existed (much to the dismay of Louisa’s father, Bronson) –…

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Chapter II. A Merry Christmas

From the new Little Women 150 blog reflecting each week on a chapter in Alcott’s classic, here is chapter two:

Little Women 150

By Katherine Paterson

Of course I wanted to be Jo. There’s nothing unusual about that. Is there a single woman’s writer of my generation that didn’t identify with her? Meg was dutiful and a bit prim, Amy was self-centered and a flibberty-gibbit. And Beth, well, of course we cried when she died, but, honestly, just between us, wasn’t she a bit tediously angelic? But Jo! She actually did things.

I remember coming into the house one day after a bout of street football with the neighborhood boys. In the living room my mother was entertaining at tea. As I listened to the cacophony of soprano voices I was struck with a sudden horror. I might have to grow up and be a woman. And all they did was talk.

In addition to her Tomboy ways, Jo was a great reader, which I certainly was, and a writer, which I didn’t think…

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Chapter I. Playing Pilgrims

From the new Little Women 150 blog reflecting each week on a chapter in Alcott’s classic, here is chapter one:

Little Women 150

By Jan Turnquist

I love the opening lines of Little Women. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” may not be on a list of “Best Opening Lines,” but it is on my personal list of favorites.  From the very start, this chapter offers a feeling of optimism and life even while introducing the four sisters in the midst of a difficult moment.   This first chapter, “Playing Pilgrims,” establishes the personalities of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy as refreshingly real and imperfect.  They tease and squabble as siblings do. But they are also warm companions in a home that is a safe refuge from a cold and dangerous world set against the backdrop of the Civil War.  Right from the beginning the reader can experience that Little Women is a story based on love.

My experience at Orchard House has blended inexorably with my experience of the book itself.  Because

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