Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I recently finished reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (on my new Kindle :) What a wonderful classic! I thoroughly enjoyed it...but I wonder if most teens today would struggle with it. It is long, and it isn't particularly exciting. It's just a picture of life in the 1800's. An idealistic picture full of morals...which might be unwelcome to some...but turned out to be just what I was in the mood for.
Page after page, I found myself drawing welcome advice from Alcott's wisdom. I almost saw it as a manual for motherhood hidden within a fun, romantic story.
Four daughters are being raised by their mother while their father is away fighting in the Civil War. The family struggles with poverty but tries to make the most of what they have. The sisters and their mother are close and loving as can be as they face trials together.
Here are some quotes that stood out to me...
Marmee (mother) was a "tall, motherly lady with a 'can I help you' look about her which was truly delightful. She was not elegantly dressed, but a noble-looking woman, and the girls thought the gray cloak and unfashionable bonnet covered the most splendid mother in the world." The maid said of her, "Some poor creeter came a-beggin', and your ma went straight off to see what was needed. There never was such a woman for givin' away vittles and drink, clothes and firin'."
-Wouldn't you like to have such things said about you? I would.
The girls often put on plays. What could be better, honestly? "It was excellent drill for their memories, a harmless amusement, and employed many hours which otherwise would have been idle, lonely, or spent in less profitable society." Yes! The value in spending time with our families and amusing ourselves together.
When the girls left the house, "they always looked back before turning the corner, for the mother was always at the window to nod and smile, and wave her hand to them. Somehow it seemed as if they couldn't have got through the day without that, for whatever their mood might be, the last glimpse of that motherly face was sure to affect them like sunshine."
-I want to be sunshine to my kids...not the tall person that growls when they don't make their beds.
"For love casts out fear, and gratitude can conquer pride."
When the youngest sister, Amy, is punished for something at school with a strike to the hand, it says, "She had been governed by love alone (at home), and a blow of that sort had never touched her before. The smart of her hand and the ache of her heart were forgotten in the sting of the thought, "I shall have to tell at home, and they will be so disappointed in me!"
-This is ideal, I think...getting our kids to want to do what is right. Not because it will free them of a spanking, but because Mom (and their Father in Heaven) will be disappointed...though always loving.
Marmee tells her daughter, Jo, how their father helped her by saying, "He never loses patience, never doubts of complains, but always hopes, and works and waits so cheerfully that one is ashamed to do otherwise before him...he showed me that I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example. It was easier to try for your sakes than for my own." Later, in another teaching moment, she says, "If I don't seem to need help, it is because I have a better friend, even than Father, to comfort and sustain me. My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning and may be many, but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother."
"I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace."
I like that Marmee allows the girls to make some mistakes. When they desperately want a week off from their responsibilities, she allows them to make an experiment of it. She says, "I think by Saturday night you will find that all play and no work is as bad as all work and no play." To solidify her point, she and the maid take time off, too. As you can imagine, things don't run very smoothly when no one is cooking, cleaning, and making fires.
"The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlet here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter." Sound familiar? It's a special time at night, isn't it? Before mother snuggles into her own rest, she checks on her babies, makes sure their warm, uttering silent prayers for them?
Anyway, this post is super-long...but I wanted to share the inspiration this book brought to me.