Audio: Listen to this post | © ClassicBooks.com
Little Women, Part Second by Louisa May Alcott seeks to give closure to the first part of a book with the same name. The book offers readers an insight into the life of the March sisters: Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth, who reside with their mother during the Civil War. The family goes through tough financial times, mainly triggered by the illness that befalls them. Their father falls ill while Beth, one of the young girls, contracts scarlet fever. The author tells of how they struggle with love matters, something that every teenage and young adult is bound to face. Towards the end, the girls find their love and end up happy despite having lost Beth.
Immediately after its release, Little Women (entitled Good Wives) became a huge commercial success. Readers were intrigued by the characters’ lives and wanted to know more about them. That is what led to the extension of volume one to volume two. Louisa May Alcott published the first part in 1868 before releasing the second part in 1869. The book is based on the lives of four sisters, namely: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. It is focused on how they grow from their childhood to outstanding women of society. This is one of those books that an author writes reflecting on their own lives. It is loosely associated with Louisa and her three sisters. It is for this reason that some scholars term this book to be some kind of autobiography.
To best understand Part 2 of Little Women, you need to have read Part 1. That’s because the former is an extension of the latter. When the book was first published, readers got to interact with the loveable girls. They watched them turn into respectable women and somehow were never pleased by the fact that the book had come to an end. You will know that you have done commendable work as a writer when there is a national outrage that your book has an ending. That is precisely what happened with Little Women. The people wanted more. Thus, at the request of the publisher, Louisa wrote the second part. This is what will be our area of focus in this review.
Meg and Jo March are the elder two sisters. They are tasked with supporting the family. Each of these girls has something that they do. Meg teaches four children from a nearby family while Jo helps her aged great-aunt. The great-aunt is wealthy, and Jo has financial benefits from taking care of her. Amy attends school and is fully involved in classroom activities, while Beth is too timid for school. She prefers staying at home and assisting with housework. Furthermore, the girls portray characters of their own. These girls go through different phases of development in Part 1.
In Part 2, which happens three years later, Meg and John get married and start learning what it means to be in a committed relationship. The author’s description of the couple’s married life is quite a reflection of what happens in most marriages. Initially, it starts with all the warmness towards each other and the feeling that you cannot do without your partner. However, as you all begin getting used to each other, the attraction starts to reduce. Things are never made easy when children are involved. Typically, the mother would redirect all the attention to the child, forgetting that the husband also needs a portion of her time. This is the same thing that happened in the Meg and john marriage. Once Meg becomes a mother, she is entirely devoted to her twins. This makes John feel left out. Meg has a friend, Sallie Gardiner, who, from time and again, shares a relationship with her friend. Gardiner, later on, marries Ned Moffat. Meg is also a close friend to The Scotts, who also happen to be friends with John Brooke. However, these are rarely seen discussing anything to do with love.
Parenthood can be quite a hard thing to face. That is why I am excited that the author considered it a worthy topic discussing in the novel. Shifting from coupledom to parenthood is often compounded by a mixture of emotions. There are times you will feel excited, exhilarated and wonderful. Similarly, there are moments you feel exhausted, exasperated, and worried about your little one. When these factors combine, they can quickly ruin a romantic relationship.
Love, marriage, and rejection
Little Women, Part 2 has details on the issue of love and relationships. Besides the Meg and John wedding that we encounter at the book’s first chapter, other characters like Jo also find love. Jo often prompted Laurie to work hard in his college education. He finally graduates with good grades, a breakthrough he attributes to Jo. Throughout their friendship, Laurie realizes that he has fallen in love with her. He even confides the same feelings for Jo in Marmee. Based on Jo’s explanation, the kind of love he feels for Jo is not that of brother and sister. Instead, he would like to be in a romantic relationship with her. It is true that Jo also has love feelings for him, except that it is not in a romantic way. He gathers courage and makes a marriage proposal. He is rejected.
As I read this book, I felt terrible for both Laurie and Jo. It is mesmerizing that people who can connect so well cannot see the love they feel for each other. Is it a wise thing to develop romantic feelings for your best friend? Most people advise that one should never do so. It is argued that letting romance get into the way of your friendship sets the stage for a much faster breakup. After such a separation, you will have lost both a friend and someone you once referred to as your partner. This indeed happens to Jo, who even decides to move to New York City to stay with her mother’s friend. While in the house, she governs her two children and enrolls for German lessons. Could it be that she decides to use the classes as a distraction from the encounter with Laurie?
What is the best thing to do after a rejection? Confessing your love to someone isn’t always such an easy thing to do. You make yourself vulnerable to them. The one person whom you have strong feelings has the power to control you. They could exploit you for their selfish gains if they want. What is even worse is when you confess these feelings and still get a rejection. The rejection can happen because of a wide range of reasons. It does not necessarily mean that you are not good enough for them. But still, the terrible burning sensation running throughout your body would not cool down so fast. That is why I was keen on how Laurie progressed in the book after he had been turned down. At one time, Laurie sets out with his grandfather for a trip across Europe. This is around the same time that Amy goes on a European tour with her aunt. Jo remains back to take care of her sick sister Beth. Amy and Laurie meet in Europe. It is an exciting moment for them as they have feelings for each other. When news of Beth’s death reaches them, they consolidate in grief. This helps grow their romantic attraction. Eventually, Amy and Laurie marry before returning home to the United States from Europe. It is evident that the author believes we can all overcome rejection and move forward powerfully. Whereas Laurie would have chosen not to love again, he freely gives himself another chance at love.
Love knows no age. People could be years apart but still have a genuine love for one another. This is precisely what happens in the case of Jo March and Professor Bhaer. The professor is tasked with giving her Germany lessons. However, in the course of doing so, he comes to love her. His love makes him want the best for Jo and even becomes furious when she starts writing stories without a moral. Later on, he proposes to Jo, who accepts. This time around, she is sure that she is in love. Jo proceeds to inherit the Plumfields from Aunt March. Together with the professor, they turn it to a house for schoolboys. Love is all about sharing in your passions and dreams.
This book remains one of my all-time favourites. The author’s choice of words and story-telling skills are powerful enough to make you never want to stop reading. She explores each character and event to greater details. Reading Little Women makes you feel as though you are in the character’s minds. One becomes a part of what they do and say, strongly feeling their emotions. This is a book worth reading from time and again.
The Danger of Gender Stereotyping
Harmful gender stereotypes are the number one cause of abuse, discrimination, and violence. With it, girls can easily get barred from accessing quality education. For instance, stereotypes that condition women to just handle domestic chores makes it pretty hard for women to go to school. Throughout their growth, girls are made to believe that the best they can do is to handle domestic and care responsibilities. This kind of assumption makes them economically dependent on me. At the same time, the stereotype that men are breadwinners causes a situation where boys are preferably educated. There is a big problem with such stereotypes because, when all that a woman can do is depend on a man for survival, they will be in a bad position when the man fails to live up to expectations. Take the case of Marmee and her husband, the young girl’s father, who gets involves in the Civil War. The family struggles with poverty throughout the time he is not around because they were conditioned to just rely on him. The situation would have been different if the mother had the economic power to provide for the family. Whether the father is around or not, the girls would not have been forced to work for the sake of meeting family expenses.
Scholars agree that Alcott wrote this book reflecting on her personal life. Just like the girls, her family was poor and mainly relied on their father as the breadwinner. Throughout their life, they kept on relocating from one place to another, much of which was influenced by the dad’s search for greener pastures. Furthermore, Alcott herself began working while young, similar to the two elder sisters. She had trouble with education, which is ironic because her father was an educator. Much of her learning was courtesy of family friends, who are modern-day iconic writers – Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Julia Ward Howe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Alcott was from a family of four daughters. Thus, it is hard to say whether or not the father would have gone the extra mile to educate his children had they been sons.
The importance of being genuine
What I love about the March family is that they are honest at all times. Despite the struggles they go through, they do not allow themselves to take shortcuts in life. They are happy with life as it is and do not yearn for meaningless riches. Little Women, Part Second reflects the society of its time. As opposed to their European counterparts, middle-class Americans of that time were never perturbed by where they were from. Neither did they crave for superficial trappings of richness and flashy titles. The author shows us that Americans were okay with what they had, and this would be determined by how hard they worked.
Living in a society that is often overtaken by social media, we all want to portray that we are living a life of wealth. Many of us go out of our way just to place ourselves in a social class that we do not fit. That is why Little Women, Part Second is a must-read for all people as it teaches one to live within their means. Furthermore, it is entertaining and rewarding to see the girls move to happy and loving marriages, thanks to their desire to live genuinely.