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Topic: Little Women Discussion- upto ch. 12

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Subject: Little Women Discussion- upto ch. 12
Date Posted: 11/28/2008 4:32 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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Its a few days early, but just so I don't forget, here's the discussion board for the first section.

Date Posted: 11/29/2008 9:13 AM ET
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Okay, I admit that when Little Women was picked as the choice, I decided not to participate.  I remember reading the book as a child, and although it was entertaining for me as a child, I felt like it was not something I wanted to read again.  A couple of days later I was shopping for used books at the thrift store that I go to, and found a perfect, never read, beautiful paperback version of...Little Women.  For 50 cents!!  I took that as a sign that I should read it, so, I'm in.  I have two more chapters to read of the first twelve.

 

Date Posted: 12/1/2008 11:30 AM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
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Alright my take on the novel so far...

( I expect to have a crazy week at work, so this may be my only response for a while)

The four daughters are well described, to their personalities and their personal appearance.  They are young, poor and having to make do without their father or lots of money.  I would like to really discuss my take on the eldest daughter, Meg.

She is very calm and motherly, working as a nanny to four young children.  She wants to appear worldly and proper, and tries not to envy the others around her.  I think one of the best descriptions of her personality is with her clothing, but more importantly, her shoes and gloves.  At the first dance, she wears shoes that are too tight, but tries (and succeeds) in having a good time, regardless of the sprained ankle.  Later, in the chapter "Meg Goes to Vanity Fair" she again is aware that her clothing is not up to par with the others, but tries to mend them and have a good time.  It is when she hears the gossip about her that she first DOES NOT enjoy herself, and begins to allow other opinions to change her personality.  She allows Sally and the others to dress her up.  While she thinks this would be a good idea (even Laurie comments on her shoes) she feels embarssed, insecure, and annoyed.  The dress is too tight and long.  She feels exposed.  The makeup makes her feel painted.  Again hears gossip, of Lincoln saying she has been 'made into a doll.'  Laurie , whom the others have also gossiped about makes her nervous and upset, and she begins to have some champagne, making her sick.  While she so wanted to look like the others, she had less of a good time once she was made to 'fit in.'  I don't think that this makes her a bad person, but a normal teenager. 

Like with every chapter in the book (so far) each one ends with a lesson.  It was the style of the day when the book was written, and Lousia May Alcott knew how to appeal to her audience and the parents.   Each chapter alone could make a discussion group.

Deb

Date Posted: 12/1/2008 1:11 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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I'm really enjoying it so far.  I like the way each girl tries to be the best possible version of herself, but each has a human weakness (vanity, envy, laziness etc), like real people.  That human failure makes the story so much sweeter, if they were perfect it'd be absolutely saccharine.

I also love Alcott's kind of feminist outlook for the time period.  The girls all expect to make their own way in the world, and Amy and Jo especially plan to succeed and earn their own fortunes.  They behave as equals to the male characters. 

Date Posted: 12/1/2008 1:32 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
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Last Edited on: 8/4/14 8:48 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/1/2008 7:13 PM ET
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Working hard is one of the values they talk about, but as Barbara said this always includes a husband. I think this point was made pretty clear when they were talking about their dreams and Meg was describing her dream, which was a house filled with nice things, and someone asked her if that house didn't include a master? Of course, she agreed.

I agree with Deb about the dance and her feelings about the clothing she has and "fitting in" with her friends. I thought it was pretty typical teenager worries and showed that she's not perfect, but has feelings and wants,  and reacts to things just like anyone else. You get to see her in a whole different light.

Date Posted: 12/1/2008 10:21 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2007
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Thanks, Deborah, for the observation of each chapter having a lesson.  I knew there were several there, but I didn't realize it was in every chapter.  Nor did I realize that was the style of the day.  (I'm not sure if I've read other books that were written during this period.)

I, too, like that the characters are not perfect. 

I can't help but feel sad for children today.  With all the modern conveniences they have I think they are not as fortunate as the girls were.  Their imaginations (not batteries or electronics) directed their play and their interaction.

I especially love the language of the day. "I will lie abed late...." is one of many expressions that is so poetic compared to how we would express that today.  I enjoyed how the author spoke directly to us  "Dear reader.." I believe she said.  It's a bit of a disappointment that she didn't do that a little more often.  I especially like when she took a moment to tell us "that there are many Beths in this world..." .  A lesson that we hear not from Marmie to her girls, but from the author directly to us.

While Meg's dream includes a husband, I think it's unusual for that time for the mother to realize they will not be lacking if for some reason they do not marry.  At the end of chapter 9 she tells Meg and Jo to be patient, "to leave these things to time". "Make this home happy, so that you may be fit for homes of your own, if they are offered you, and contented here if they are not" "...and both of us trust and hope that our daughters whether married or single, will be the pride and comfort of our lives."



Last Edited on: 12/1/08 10:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Subject: First time reader...
Date Posted: 12/2/2008 12:33 AM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
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First, I would like to say that this is the first time that I have read Little Women.  I know, most of you probably read it when you were younger, but I never got around to it until I saw this discussion group.  Thank you, all, for that.

I agree, the more things change, the more they stay the same.   The fear of what is happening at the war front, the worry over not having enough money to meet the basic needs, the cutting back of Christmas gifts...hey, this could be life today!!!  Am I wrong?

I am a 9th grade English teacher (who's never read this book, I know!) and I have to say that the whining in this book reminds me of what I hear in the classroom.  I'm not kidding.  Seriously, it's starting to bug me and I am having flashbacks to former students!  Due to this, I am struggling to get through the chapters.  A few times I was tempted to put the book down permanently due to the cries for more money, limes, and vanity.  (Today it would be money, iPods and cell phones.)  I agree with Deb that there is a moral at the end of every chapter.  Putting aside the whining, there are several serious lessons that can be learned from this novel.  Why wasn't this book ead aloud to us as children?  Maybe some of you did have it read to you in school, but I never did.  This would be perfect to read to a group of 5th or 6th graders who are exploring the world around them.   It would be a great discussion starter and an excellent source for classroom debate.

My favorite character is Beth.  She is simple, yet complicated.  My favorite scene, so far, is when she is brave enough to see James Laurence and thank him for the piano.  I was totally cheering her on!  I have to root for the quiet ones because they usually have the most to say; you just need to listen. 

Diana



Last Edited on: 12/2/08 12:36 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/2/2008 7:53 AM ET
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Last Edited on: 8/4/14 8:47 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/2/2008 8:56 AM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
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Teresa,

  Yes, children's books at the time were supposed to be "good wholesome reading" that the parents approved of.  I think what makes this book as good as it is would be the way Marmee gives the lessons in a fun way (such as when the girls decide not to do their chores for a week.)  I thought it was rather funny.

Interesting to note:  I am also reading a book titled Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her.  (A really  good read!) This book mentions that one of the novels to influence the main writer of the Nancy Drew series is Little Women.    And even more interesting to note: polls taken in the 1930's show that for the first time, little girls between the ages of 8-14 began to list Carolyn Keene and the Nancy Drew mysteries as their favorite author, over the previous (and long standing winner) Lousia May Alcott and Little Women.  Books were shifting to more modern stories for girls and parents were buying them.

This leads to an interesting question.  How many of you have read the original Nancy Drews when you were a kid?  How many of you read Little Women?  I started reading Nancy Drew in the 5th grade, and LW in 7th. 

Deb

 

Date Posted: 12/2/2008 10:28 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2007
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I read Nancy Drew in the fifth grade, as did most, if not all, of my friends.  They were the original, yellow books, not the updated version that my oldest read when she was in jr. high.  My youngest daughter read Little Women in seventh or eighth grade.  She chose it for A.R. over Goosebumps or whatever was the latest rage.  I didn't read Little Women (or the Anne of Green Gable series) until I was an adult and my oldest (a teen) was enjoying them.  I think the classics that I did read, like The Good Earth, must've gone somewhat over my head.  I was able to read and understand them, but I know the messages and emotions didn't touch me as a young teen the way they do now that I am a woman (and older).

I know the March family has had a financial set-back, but I never understood how they could complain about being poor while they still had a housekeeper (nanny, whatever?). 

Diana, don't you love the "There are many Beths in this world" passage?  Wow, that tugged at my heart. 



Last Edited on: 12/2/08 10:30 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/2/2008 10:34 AM ET
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I know what you mean about the whining, too, Diana, but isn't it something that just happens when the girls are among themselves and at home?  I think young people's whining about lack of material things today is not private in the confines of their own homes.  (Of course much of what concerns us, young and adult, is that way these days.)



Last Edited on: 12/2/08 10:37 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/2/2008 1:15 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
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I read Little Women for the first time when I was in second grade. I used to go across the hall to the third grade classroom for reading, and sometimes they weren't ready to start reading class yet, so I would go to the back corner of the classroom where the teacher had a beanbag chair and a shelf full of books, and that was where I discovered Little Women. It's such a happy memory for me!

I've re-read it several times since and I'm looking forward to reading it again--hopefully I can pick it up tonight and get through the first section!

I think I was about the same age when I picked up my first Nancy Drew book, too. I'm pretty sure it was in second grade as well. It was a very old copy of The Clue of the Velvet Mask. I was a precocious reader!

 

Date Posted: 12/2/2008 4:19 PM ET
Member Since: 4/11/2006
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I'm with you, Diana.  This is my first time reading LW also.  I was quite excited because I thought it'd be such an easy read for this time of year...wrong!  The language of the time takes a bit getting used to, but I love it.  I had only finished the 1st 6 chapters by Sunday, but was able to get  through ch 12 today while Hub had his colonscopy.  His pain, my reading gain ;)

As Vanessa mentioned each of the girls' weaknesses, I noticed the connection to their learning styles and each of their interests in fine arts... 

Meg was vain, but the naturalist who loved the conservatory (and who could say that flowers and plants aren't in keeping w/ her beauty?) ....

Jo, of quick temper, but the linguist who loved words, wrote tales, and also kinesthetic...

Amy was a complainer and an artist, always drawing so she's probably spatial....

Beth, shyness was her 'lion', but she was compassionate to her invalid dolls and musically talented.

I'll follow this with a few more thoughts, I'm afraid this will time out on me.

   

 

 

Date Posted: 12/2/2008 5:33 PM ET
Member Since: 4/11/2006
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I was surprised at all the Biblical references and analogies.  I suppose this would be classified as children's Christian fiction in our day and age.  The books Marmee puts under the girls' pillows are obivously Bibles.  Then Marmee mentions how Jo can always take her problems to her Heavenly Father.  Also, the path the girls walk to get to the Celestial City is obviously their Earthly burdens/sins carried until they reach Heaven.

I'm struck by the 'semi-autobiographical' nature of Alcott's writing.  As Jo, she tells her siblings she will make enough money w/ her plays someday to keep them in a fine manner.  And as an author, she maintained and sustained her parents and bought them a home (someone correct me if I'm wrong).  As the saying goes, "Art imitates life."

Re: Deborah's comments about the lesson at the end of each chapter...If I get very energetic, I'd like to go back and list each 'moral' from the chapters.  Then we could keep it going until the end of the book. 

As a teacher of 4th & 5th graders, I could see reading one chapter.  This book is much longer than I expected!  I don't think my students w/ reading and attention difficulties would retain interest; they're certainly not the precocious readers Janelle was in 2nd grade. 

Date Posted: 12/2/2008 6:42 PM ET
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I thought the books were Pilgrim's Progress?

Date Posted: 12/2/2008 6:54 PM ET
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I wasn't sure.  I knew they were acting out Pilgrim's Progress, but of course it is a Christian analogy (parable).  I think there are many  references to the Christian faith and the Bible.  Now I need to go back and see what it says.  :)

Date Posted: 12/2/2008 7:34 PM ET
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I could be wrong...maybe they are Pilgrim's Progress; I've never read it.  But one other thing that makes me think it's the Bible is the reference Marmee uses when she writes a letter to Jo encouraging her about keeping her temper.  Marmee says she can tell the book she put under Jo's pillow is getting worn from all the use. 

Anyone have any thoughts on the chapter where Meg burns Jo's book of writings, Jo goes to bed angry, then Meg falls through the ice and almost drowns?  Very strong parable on forgiveness.

Date Posted: 12/2/2008 9:39 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2007
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000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

Okay, girls here is a lesson from this Marmee.  This is what happens to careless women when they open their books on their keyboard and look for a passage.  :) 

(I can not delete this and thought perhaps after submitting I could, but that didn't work either.  Maybe I'll just pretend that it is what I intended all along.)

 

000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000



Last Edited on: 12/2/08 9:45 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/2/2008 10:02 PM ET
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You know what?  I think they were Bibles that Marmee gave them!  "She knew it very well for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived" and "true guide book for any pilgrim".  It doesn't come out and say it is the Bible, but because it described the specific details and title of Pilgrim's Progress earlier, I'm sure it would've said if they were that.  Also she encouraged them to read it every morning.  Would Pilgrim's Progress come in all different color covers the way a Bible might? 

(I'm having trouble putting my words together tonight.  We just got home from a prayer vigil for some Cub Scouts who were hurt at the Christmas parade in our little town last night.  After it was over we got word that one of the boys will get to come home tomorrow.  The other is still in serious condition, I believe.)

Date Posted: 12/3/2008 12:32 AM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
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Jan,

Meg didn't fall through the ice, that was Amy.

Date Posted: 12/3/2008 7:58 AM ET
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I thought that chapter (Forgivness) was a particularly poignant because it wasn't just a petty argument between the sisters; Jo had real cause to be angry, but even when anger is justifiable it can still destroy people's lives.  And I think Amy began to gain some perspective on life, (i.e. that even if Jo was treating her unfairly, her retaliation, by destroying Jo's hardwork and creativity, was over the line).



Last Edited on: 12/3/08 9:01 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/3/2008 9:06 AM ET
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Thanks for that correction, Diana.  I went back and checked after typing so impulsively (I'm a bit like Jo in that way) and meant to edit.

I agree with you about the justifiable anger, Vanessa.  It reminded me though that we all need to forgive one another...life is too long to live holding a grudge, but too short to live w/out forgiveness.  Hmm, the morals of this book must be getting to me.  I'm a little sappy!

Date Posted: 12/3/2008 9:48 AM ET
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Right, Amy was over the line in destroying Jo's writings.  That must've been heartbreaking for Jo and a hard thing to forgive.  What I noticed was how the actions of one person and then the unforgiveness of another were so destructive.  Jo and Amy weren't the only ones to suffer.  It spilled over into the others' lives and affected all of them! 

Date Posted: 12/3/2008 5:08 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
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I always thought it was Pilgrim's Progress the girls got, too, but it makes so much more sense for it to be Bibles, which would come in different colors.

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