Comments on: Thoughts on Little Women http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Mon, 22 Sep 2014 20:51:13 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/comment-page-1/#comment-1188589 Wed, 05 Dec 2012 03:07:27 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=20029#comment-1188589 IrishUp: that’s an admirable defense of Pa Ingalls, but I’m afraid he was an epic failure as a man. If he had just settled his ass down somewhere before middle age, instead of dragging his poor wife and children all over hell’s half acre, he might have made something of himself. But all of the Ingalls’ family’s bad luck is traceable to one cause: Pa’s piss-poor judgment. Sure, he could build a house on his own–he got plenty of practice, as he had to build a new one in every book because he got chased out of the previous one by 1) locusts, 2) bad winter, 3) disease, 4) poverty, 5) having built the house in Indian territory.

(I am talking about the fictional Pa, not the real Charles Ingalls here. The literary creation is more to the point.)

He’s a mess, but Laura’s neither the first nor the last female to fall for a lifelong loser because he has nice eyes, a glossy beard, and can play “Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines” on his fiddle.

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By: Ellie http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/comment-page-1/#comment-1188513 Wed, 05 Dec 2012 02:13:49 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=20029#comment-1188513 My mother (b. 1940s) also called her mother (b. c. 1919) “Marmee.” I always assumed it came from LW, but never thought to ask. Now I will!

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By: IrishUp http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/comment-page-1/#comment-1188386 Wed, 05 Dec 2012 00:30:04 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=20029#comment-1188386 I also REFUSED to read LW as a kid. EVERYONE told me how much like Jo I was, I should read the book, & etc. Obviously, LW was going to be the last thing I’d evar read (and I’ll reread the Lysol can to see if it kills anything new, if I’m desperate enough). I actually only read it because I liked the 1994 movie. Perhaps that’s why I liked Amy’s character arc so much better than Jo’s. You know from the get go Jo is going to be a writer. It’s not clear what Amy is going to turn out to be like, and she’s pretty interesting.

But I’m really delurking to defend Charles Ingalls as decidedly not an epic loser and miles away from Mr. Alcott. He can build houses from scratch – including making the shingles and wooden pegs yo! He’s an able farmer, and when they finally settle, becomes one of the town leaders. He’s also unfailingly and materially supportive of Laura, and clearly values her as she is.

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By: Signal Boost: Barbara Sicherman on the Persistence of Little Women « Knitting Clio http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/comment-page-1/#comment-1188119 Tue, 04 Dec 2012 20:39:22 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=20029#comment-1188119 [...] Historiann asked her readers to give their thoughts and recollections of Little Women, so I invite my readers to do the same. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

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By: comparatrice http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/comment-page-1/#comment-1187946 Tue, 04 Dec 2012 18:14:22 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=20029#comment-1187946 It’s funny how clear and strong the pressure is to *identify* with a (female) character, rather than to take an interest in her actions and the situations in which she finds herself. I know I felt that pressure as a kid, and would have said I identified with Jo, or with L.M. Montgomery’s writerly heroines — but the point of reading a novel is not to dress yourself up and first-person-shoot your way through it, but to have some relief from the narcissism of childhood and see a world (and its *events*, people’s choices and agency) from a more collective, synoptic viewpoint. As a kid, I knew who I was– I got lucky and my parents bestowed a pretty congenial kid-identity on me– and was far more curious about other people. I liked it when Jo *did* things, liked it when Amy went to Europe; I meditated on Beth’s suffering, and cared surprisingly little about Laurie and Dr. Bhaer, perhaps because of what TR refers to above.

I think the identification-pressure is part of the marketing of women’s literature and even historical “women writers” (the Victorians, Woolf, Dickinson, et al) — I have been struck again and again by the number of novels or “imaginative” biographies written about female authors, and suspect that it’s greater than the number devoted to men. (Except Kafka. Everyone wants a piece of Kafka.) There isn’t really anything wrong with this as such, but I wish imitation and identification didn’t seem like a duty. Then again, having originality seem like a duty is also a curse.

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By: nicoleandmaggie http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/comment-page-1/#comment-1185815 Mon, 03 Dec 2012 16:20:11 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=20029#comment-1185815 I read Little Women in third grade, and at the time I only viewed romance through a logical pairing up lens. (I loved Gilbert and Sullivan the way everybody ended up with someone in the end.) So I found the romance parts somewhat boring and didn’t care who she ended up with really, though I guess I was happy she found someone and her sister found someone.

I probably identified with both Jo and Meg. When I was little I wanted to be Anne, then when I was older I wanted to not be Anne, and since then I’ve resigned myself to being like Anne in many not-so-flattering ways.

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By: Perpetua http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/comment-page-1/#comment-1185607 Mon, 03 Dec 2012 13:51:34 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=20029#comment-1185607 So I’m an outlier here, because while I certainly resembled Jo most, and admired Amy for the reasons many of you mentioned (she’s so sensible, in a good way, as an adult), when I was a girl, I liked Meg the most. Perhaps this was because I inhabited Jo so much that I naturally looked up to Meg as the role model? I wanted to be the things that she was, even though I wasn’t. But Mary Ingalls, I never had any use for.

I agree with @TR’s read of Jo and Laurie. I agreed with the logic of the story about those two, and was happy when they parted. I wanted *more* for Jo.

I loved LW as a girl, and read all the way through Jo’s Boys many times, as well as the other books in LMA’s oeuvre. But I related to Anne Shirley much more. Maybe because it’s less preachy?

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By: Tenured Radical http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/comment-page-1/#comment-1184048 Sun, 02 Dec 2012 14:11:42 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=20029#comment-1184048 A Jo clocking in here: I read it somewhat late (summer after 10th grade) having been consumed with Everything Alexander Dumas prior to that. I imagined myself as the Fourth Musketeer.

Looking back on it, however, the questions about freedom that are part of Jo’s gender identity, and a theme of the whole book, are quite important. EG,

*Having* the means for a Christmas dinner then frees the family to be its best self and give it away.

Jo survives the burning of her manuscript (a truly terrible moment in the book) be writing another, better one. The death of a first, surely inferior, book frees her to write a better book and by doing so, commit to writing as an adult thing.

Jo has to reject Laurie because his love is too consuming — it will suffocate her, because he has loved her as a girl, not a woman. The Old Guy, however, Understands Women, and can create the space for her to be a mother and an author. Hence, Jo (regardless of how much her marriage distressed those of us of the Sapphic persuasion) may have been the first female in history (OK, other than Mrs. Stowe) to “have it all.”

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By: Melete http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/comment-page-1/#comment-1184031 Sun, 02 Dec 2012 13:55:30 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=20029#comment-1184031 As a weird little kid, I couldn’t bring myself to read books for girls, except the Bobbsey Twins, which wasn’t billed as specifically girl-oriented. My preference was for science fiction. I read every sci-fi novel in the community library and then started reading as much nonfiction science as I could get my sweaty hands on.

In my weird little kid mind, something titled Little Women represented the mindset that made it next to impossible for girls in my generation to study and have careers in science. While I couldn’t grow up to be an astrophysicist, I at least didn’t want my leisure time contaminated with that stuff.

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By: Susan http://www.historiann.com/2012/11/30/thoughts-on-little-women/comment-page-1/#comment-1183507 Sun, 02 Dec 2012 05:43:11 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=20029#comment-1183507 As an adult, I think Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel; it has the requisite happy ending, but there’s a sense of the lost chances and complex choices we have in life. And I like that Anne Elliott is older, made mistakes, and really gets a second chance. It’s a grown-up novel, as P&P is a young woman’s novel.

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