“Let us be elegant or die…”
I have moaned and complained pretty much throughout my English Literature degree so far. One enforced consequence of studying English however, is that it has introduced me to a bunch of stuff that I otherwise wouldn’t have read. Little Women is a perfect example. I like to think of myself as being quite open minded but Louisa May Alcott’s most successful novel is undoubtedly aimed at children and more specifically girls. As I am allegedly a fully grown adult man, I am probably not the demographic that Alcott was aiming at…
Little Women sits us by the fire in the home of the March family. Four sisters dominate the story along with Mrs March, the matriarch of the household. Meg is the beautiful, eldest sister, Jo is the tom boy, Amy is the second youngest but likes to think she is the most grown up and Beth is the shy but beloved, runt of the litter.
It is impossible not to immediately fall in love with the March sisters, primarily because of the way they treat each other. Little Women presents us with a family that is poor in terms of material goods but rich in every other sense. Indeed, this theme defines the book with the more wealthy characters often revealed to be suffering in some way or another despite their financial good fortune.
The world Alcott creates may be quaint but it never feels saccharine. The affection the characters share, and the difficulties that they face, are both authentic and relatable and when the story took a dark turn, I was right there with the girls praying that everything would turn out OK.
Little Women certainly wasn’t written with a slightly overweight, thirty year old man in mind but it is proof, if any was needed, that some of life’s most rewarding experiences are garnered when you step out of your comfort zone to try something different. The days of me reading for fun are unfortunately over until I have finished my second year of study but I certainly hope to take in some of the many sequels spawned by Little Women when the opportunity presents itself.