I am the youngest of four sisters. Two of them are English majors (one of those an English professor), and the other an anthropology major. The oldest (one of the English majors) gave me books for Christmas this year (as she does most years). One of those books was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. This ended up being one of the last books that I read in 2019.
As the youngest of four sisters, I identified with the relationships that emerged between the sisters in Little Women. Although, as the youngest, I would be an “Amy”, I really think that I am more of a “Jo”. My oldest sister is definitely a “Meg”. I am not sure who would be the “Beth” and “Amy” of the family. Maybe we are just a family of Jo’s.
There will be increased sales of and reading of Little Women with the release of the movie, but I hope that it also encourages people to read more of Alcott’s books. I have a first edition copy of Jo’s Boys (a book that I found for $4 in a Boston used bookstore). I intend to buy another copy of Jo’s Boys to read (I try not to handle my first editions too much) and a copy of Little Men. It saddens me that many people are being exposed to great classic literature through movies rather than reading it. People need to get off of their screens and open a book more. I think it would make the world a better place. I am almost afraid to go see the Little Women movie as movies too often disappoint when you have read the book.
When I lived in the Boston metro-area (I never actually lived in Boston), there was a time when I lived a mile or two away from Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House (in Concord). It is now a museum, and I enjoyed taking my kids there to tour the mansion and learn about Alcott’s life. I had not read any of her books at that time. I wish that I had. You can see bits of Alcott’s life reflected in the book. Nearby, we also frequently visited Walden Pond (the site of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin in the woods), Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house, and The Wayside – home to the Alcott’s, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Lothrops. The Wayside is now part of a national park, and was a childhood home to Alcott. Again, you can see reflections of her novel in the home. I would love to go back and tour the properties after reading her books.
Alcott highlights the importance of love, friendship, kindness, and family throughout Little Women. Indeed, she demonstrates how love, kindness, friendship, and family can overcome any obstacle – including poverty – through her portrayal of the four girls and their friend Laurie. The girls learn important lessons as the book progresses, and I believe that these lessons continue to be salient in today’s over-commercialized society. Perhaps books like this should be required reading for children in later elementary school or early middle school years. I’ll save my commentary on the state of education in society for another post another day.
In short, I really enjoyed reading Little Women and think that it is a book that people of all ages would enjoy. It is a nice flashback to society of the time, and a wonderful portrayal of the life and experiences of women in that time and place. I add it to my list of “recommended required reading” for middle grade ages.