Tag Archives: Little Women

I Love Those “Little Women” SpReAd the Love Book Challenge

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When asked to choose one book that had a particular impact on me as a child for the SpReAd the Love Book Challenge, several actually came to mind.

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I grew up in house filled with books. The big built-in bookshelves in the living room were overflowing, not to mention the stacks of books on our bedroom shelves, the ones on the bedside tables, under the beds . . . well, you get my drift. My parents had me enrolled in a book club as a preschooler, with my older sisters reading the stories to me. I almost feel as if I came out of the womb loving books.

So, while I adored Beryl Netherclift’s “The Snowstorm,” a story about a set of modern-day siblings encountering several 18th century ghosts in their eccentric aunt’s old house in the English countryside, and enjoyed a charming Civil War-era tale about a spirited young girl, “Miney and the Blessing,”  ultimately it was Louisa May Alcott’s classic semi-autobiographical story “Little Women” that won out.  To this day, I can quote passages from the book. I have seen and enjoyed elements of all the various film treatments of the story, too.

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The cast of the 1933 George Cukor version of the story: Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Frances Dee and Jean Parker. Courtesy of Franklymydear

But truly, nothing compares to sitting down as I recently did, opening up the handsome illustrated hard-bound edition I invested in a few years ago, and reading the story of four sisters–Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy–growing up in New England during the Civil War.  Their beloved father is far away, serving as a clergyman for the Union Army and the once well-to-do family has fallen on hard times.

I am the youngest of three daughters of a farmer who had grown up on what was classified as a plantation, with thousands of acres of fertile land, cotton gin, lumber mill, company store and a host of farm hands. They weren’t rich, but they were very comfortable, particularly for south Alabama folks in the ’20s and ’30s. However, by the time my dad started his own family, those days were long ago and we had times of struggle, too. So I could relate to the girls sometimes wishing those salad days were still there to be enjoyed.

But most of all, I could relate to the “little women” themselves. Most readers identify mainly with just one of the characters. Oddly, I found I saw elements of myself in each of the four March daughters. Like Meg, the eldest, I seemed to have a taste for finer things (even if my budget did not always agree); like Jo, I loved books, liked to write and play act and considered my hair my “one beauty.”  Like Beth, I could be quite timid around those outside my comfort zone and I, too,  adored music (although it was my older sister who was the talented pianist among us). And like Amy, the youngest, I was a regular “snow maiden,” fair-haired and pale, with a less-than-classical nose I heartily detested and a real talent for drawing. I have to confess I was also a bit spoiled and something of a goose at times.

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And I really enjoyed the closeness of the March sisters. Oh, they didn’t always get along, anymore than I did with my own two siblings. But you always knew in the end they would be there for one another. I loved their theatrical events with homemade props and special effects, their Pickwick Society, their desire to build “castles in the air.” And of course, there was neighbor Laurie, the orphaned lad living with his wealthy grandfather, who eventually became part of the family, too.

“Little Women” reinforces the importance of family and friendship, the power in forgiveness, the importance of being true to yourself and the pleasures life offers that cannot be purchased in a store. There is a warmth and true humanity in this book, which will likely be read and loved by generations to come.

I imagine them opening the book to that first page and reading, as I have so many times~

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents . . .”
I will be donating a copy of “Little Women” to the Greenville-Butler County Library for their children’s library section. Any child in the county can obtain a card here and enjoy all the library offers to our community.

Crying Over You: Why it’s OK to grieve over fictional characters

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” I try to make the readers feel they’ve lived the events of the book. Just as you grieve if a friend is killed, you should grieve if a fictional character is killed. You should care. If somebody dies and you just go get more popcorn, it’s a superficial experience isn’t it?”

~George R. R. Martin, author of the “Game of Thrones” novels

I remember as a child reading the classic novel “Little Womenwhich is still one of my favorites.  I always got choked up when dear, quiet, loving little Beth dies.  Beth, with her gentle nature and love for playing the piano, reminded me of one of my older sisters, so it was doubly painful.  Why, I asked myself, did favorite characters–especially characters as nice and good as Beth–have to die??

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Of course, I later realized if nothing dramatic happened in stories–no unexpected plot twists, no angst-filled characters, no opportunities for the surviving people within the stories to grieve, rage, seek revenge, to grow from their tragic experiences–we’d find such books and films and television shows considerably less compelling, wouldn’t we?

Still. It hurts. Especially if and when we feel the writers do not play fair with the characters.

I am not here to discuss the perceived bad choices and rather preposterous storylines given us by some of the writers for RA’s projects–I believe most of you know where I stand on that subject and that’s really for another post.

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This post is to say that it’s perfectly OK to feel shock, horror, anger, grief over the death of a character you have come to love and feel a distinct connection to, be it in a novel or film or television show.

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You’re not crazy, actually. You are reacting to the writing and to how the actor has crafted his role. When someone like Louisa May Alcott writes so delightfully of four sisters with distinct personalities and their faults and foibles, characters to whom you find yourself relating on various levels, it would be very difficult not to care and to invest yourself emotionally in their wellbeing.

When an actor such as Richard Armitage puts his heart and soul, along with his keen intelligence, into creating a character, flawed and very much human, yet still someone we can love and admire and respect–how can we not feel moved at the very thought of losing them, never mind watching it unfold onscreen before us ?  Yes, our hearts break a bit. We are sad. We cry. We’re human, too.

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And while I admit I don’t even want to contemplate it, I know the screen death of yet another character is going to take place. And I really do dread it.  Even thought it’s a year-and-a-half away, I dread it.

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I know I will grieve, that my grief will be shared by many around the world. And I know that it’s OK, no matter what some might say.

As Martin says, “You should grieve. You should care.”

And if you’re like me, you know they really haven’t died. No, they’ve been Loved Into Being, just like that velveteen rabbit in the children’s story, gaining So Not Dead status and going on to further adventures and greater glories. Living on in our fanfiction, fanvids, fanart, on our forums, in our blogs–and most of all, in our hearts.

Even so, it’s still perfectly OK to shed a few tears–or a lot of them–to go through Kleenexes and curl up in bed and have a good old crying jag, if you must.  In a way, it’s a true homage to the writers and actors who gave us these characters in the first place.

Long live the So Not Dead Present and Future–may they continue to bring joy and pleasure, beauty and laughter and heady adventure into our lives.

Sometimes, they even end up hanging out in your den eating brownies and getting milk mustaches. I swear . . .

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