Happy Birthday Ms. Louisa May Alcott

By Antara Bandyopadhyay

louisa may alcott, american writer, little women, classic novel, women in the arts, women's history

As we the kids of the 20th century grew up one of the classic manuscripts handed to us to know how possibly the world works is the “Little Women”. A novel known to be written in a hurry and plodded on out of disinterest and it’s sequel one of the quickest to follow-in in popular English Literary History,it represents the passage of a girl’s childhood to womanhood.

Scholarly heads very interestingly call the combined novel of “Little Women” and “Good Wives” under a single title of the former,as a semi-autobiography.

The author Ms. Louisa May Alcott was known to be an abolitionist and feminist who wrote passionate and fiery novels urging human emotions to be expressed instead of being hidden behind stone-faced masks and ignorance.

The writer was crowned with her first critical recognition towards the letters she wrote to her home, criticizing lack of awareness,when she fell severely ill while serving as a nurse in the Union Hospital during American Civil War.

Alcott, though  being a very righteous person to the core,has been seen to portray many of the characters of her novels highly idealistically.

For instance Mr. March,Jo’s father is portrayed as a hero of the American Civil War,employed as chaplain and providing high moralistic value to the family. But Mr. Alcott,Louisa’s father was loud and dictatorial,improvident and had an impractically harsh outlook towards child education.This affected the family heavily and humiliated them constantly.

The protagonists of her novel usually mirror her own life struggles closely and are willful,relentless,persistent to the extent of taking revenge on those who humiliate or insult them severely.

Her milestone novel “Little Women” portrays a family of six,four sisters and their parents.

The brief follow-through to the accounts of their lives are introduced through the main characters.

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Margaret ‘Meg’ March
The eldest,sixteen years old,beauty of the family and a nearly complete ‘little woman‘ portrayed as a rather dependent and reliant typically home bound and family oriented young lady. She mirrors Anna,the writer’s eldest sister.

Josephine ‘Jo’ March
The principal character,2nd sister is 15 years old, strong and willful,pathetically hot-headed like her mother,she tries to get hold of herself with the help of her mother and sister Beth.But miserably fails to do so.She writes very well and loves reading.She’s suspected to be the writer’s portrayal of her own self,except for that Ms.Alcott had been spinster all her life.

Elizabeth ‘Beth’ March
She is the kind,gentle,sweet,shy,quiet and musical one.Infused with silent wisdom and at peace with herself she is the binding thread of the family.
She is home bound and with the least ambitions of a life of only private and homely importance.She lacks in health and soon. contracts Scarlet fever while nursing a sick family and finally dies.She mirrors Lizzie,younger sister of the author whom she lost on similar accounts.

Amy March
She is the youngest,most pampered and and most materialistic.She is posed as the least likable of the four sisters.But she is also the only one who strives to be the most uncompromising at the art of self expression in contrast to Jo,who writes only for financial gains.She mirrors Abigail,the writer’s youngest sister.

Margaret ‘Marmee’ March
She is the four ‘little women’s mother.An equally hot-headed lady as Jo,she is totally devoted to her charity work and encourages her daughters to be a part of the same.She reflects Ms.Alcott’s mother Mrs.Abby May.

Theodore Laurie Lawrence
A rich young man, ‘the boy next door’,an orphan, Jo’s best friend ‘Teddy’,who offers an unrequited marriage proposal to Jo.This character is based on Ladislas Wisniewski,a young polish émigré friend and possibly the most serious romantic affliction of Ms.Louisa May Alcott’s life.

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The other popular novels of Ms.Alcott the readers would definitely love to check out  are–
a. Little Men
b. Jo’s Boys of the ‘Little Women’ series.
c. Hospital Sketches
d. A long fatal love chase
e. Pauline’s passion and punishment
f. A modern Mephistopheles
g. Work.

Do share your comments, reviews, suggestions, feedback at risinglitera@gmail.com :).

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