Mittwoch, 22. Februar 2012

Little Women and the Quintessence of Childhood

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is unquestionably one of the most popular and appreciated classics of all times, but what exactly is it that you love about it? Is it that flicking through the pages stirs memories of the ease and happiness of your own childhood? Is it the light yet captivating story or the amiable characters? Is it the whole atmosphere of blissful days at home with your family? For me it is neither of these.


I picked the novel up for the first time last weekend, and I could not have chosen a better book during my Readathon since I found it almost impossible to put it aside. It's not that the plot was so thrilling, but I was turning the pages feverishly because I was so interested in the development of the "little women".
While I didn't find any of the girls to fully identify with, I share certain personality traits with all of them (Jo's love for books, Beth's shyness towards strangers and Meg and Amy's social ambitions namely) and cared deeply for every single one of the young ladies, to the point of crying when I thought Beth would die.
For me, the most fascinating thing about this book is that the March girls are all children in the beginning; children who are slowly growing into independent young women.
They are children because in their little world everything is possible, anything can happen and the future holds all possibilities for them.
The true magic of childhood is freedom, the freedom to have a whole life with hundreds of chances before you. As a child you have all your future before you and you have not yet had to choose one path in life, letting go of all other possibilities. The quintessence of childhood is that a child's most difficult decision is between strawberry and vanilla ice cream.

Perhaps I am especially sensitive to the girls' process of growing up because I am in the middle of it myself, but I found it extremely intriguing to watch them overcome their little flaws and vanities and at times I caught myself thinking "The whole world is open for them, why shouldn't it be for me?"
Those were the times when I grew rather sad because I noticed that I am already thinking a lot like an adult.
In my opinion Little Women is one of those books all of us should read every now and then just so that we do not forget what it was like to be a child.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mean we should dwell on nostalgic thoughts of the good old times, no, I mean something entirely different. Call me childish, but I think the world would be a better place if we all remembered this feeling of our youth sometimes.
The feeling that we can do and become whatever we want as long as we try hard enough.

Kommentare:

  1. I loved Little Women, too,and consequently wanted to read everything Louisa May Alcott wrote (Little Men is another favorite of mine). I always felt so similar to Jo, as my family can attest. She developed all the sisters' personalities so well.

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    1. I'm so jealous of you, Jo is so cool, I wish I was more like her :)
      I am looking forward to reading Little Men, although this book will have a hard time living up to my expectations. We'll see!

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  2. Such an eloquent post, Cassandra! I'm glad you enjoyed reading this.

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    1. Thank you :)
      I enjoyed it very, very much and more than anything I am glad that I understand the universal love for Louisa May Alcott now!

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  3. I am so glad I first read this book as a child and I sometimes give it a re read which I am actually doing right now! LOl....Your observations are so true. It is a special book about growing up and changing and it's a book I dearly love. Enjoy! :)

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    1. I wish I had read it earlier too, but on the other hand I am glad that I have read it now, after all I am still the same age as Jo and even younger than Meg. I find it wonderful how many people read it again as grown-ups because they've liked it so much in their childhood, that is rather rare.

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  4. Little Women was my first "big" reading experience. I was ten years old and at a bookstore with my mom when the cover caught my eye. I asked her to buy it for me, she said no. When we got home, she pulled the book out of the bag and said "surprise!".
    It's been over ten years since that day, but I can still remember it vividly. I didn't know it at the time, but it would end up being such a turning point for me. Little Women opened a whole new world for me. It showed me how bittersweet life can be, but more importantly, how thrilling and emotional and wonderful. I'm so grateful I read it when I was growing up (not that we ever stop growing up, but you get the point), and I wish everyone got the chance to do the same.
    Wonderful post!

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    1. Caro, that is one of the cutest stories I've ever heard! What an amazing mother you must have :)
      I am going to promote a German translation personally if needed. It's not fair that children here hardly have a chance to read this wonderful book! (I mean, there is a translation but it's very, very bad! Its title translates to "Young humans". Who would read that?!)

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