Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

And now for Alcott...

...whose birthday was also last Thursday. There are so many wonderful meals in Little Women I don't know where to start: the Christmas breakfast for the Hummels? The "young lobster" and "old asparagus" Jo buys for the lunch the girls prepare for Miss Crocker? The blanc mange Meg sends over to Laurie when he is ill? Amy's luncheon for twelve that ends up only serving one guest? As I look over the novel, though, I find I'm drawn to more solitary scenes:

"Jo! Jo! Where are you?" cried Meg, at the foot of the garret stairs.
"Here," answered a husky voice from above; and running up, Meg found her sister eating apples and crying over "The Heir of Redcliffe," wrapped up in a comforter on an old three-legged sofa by the sunny window. This was Jo's favorite refuge; and here she loved to retire with half a dozen russets and a nice book, the enjoy the quiet and the society of a pet rat who lived near by, and didn't mind her a particle. As Meg appeared, Scrabble whisked into his hole. Jo shook the tears off her cheeks, and waited to hear the news. (ch. 3, p. 23)
Books, solitude, and apples (though no rats) marked my childhood as well; it came as a great shock to me in graduate school and beyond to discover that there were women who did not identify with Jo--who chose, in fact, Amy or Beth or Meg instead. Not me--and scenes like this were why.

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