Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Little Women

by Louisa May Alcott

The last time I read this was probably 26 or so years ago. Being on a children’s literature kick lately, I thought I ought to revisit this 450-page “girls’ book.” The plot is linear, episodic, and simple. The four March sisters grow up to embrace their less exalted positions in the world and find happiness in the simple pleasures of family and home.

I can’t deny the lasting appeal of Alcott’s characters, especially the literate and introspective Jo (based on the author herself); and I enjoyed the depiction of the sisters growing up alongside their boy neighbor. But I had forgotten or possibly never realized how didactic, priggish, and tedious this book is, its primary purpose apparently being to moralize to young girls. The book’s a product of its time, of course, and I have no problem with moral lessons in literature as a general rule. But I do object to being moralized at directly by the narrator and to being told rather than shown the conclusions I as a reader must draw. Of course, I’m a thirty-something-year-old man in the 21st century, and the book was written for young girls in 1870. Still, so was Alice in Wonderland, and that’s timeless. This book, not so much. It also features some of the most nauseating fake children’s speech ever (“Opy doy, me’s tummin!”).

[read twice]

three stars

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