Monday, June 13, 2011

OK, who's read Little Women?

Time to wake up everybody!! Let the words "summer reading" fill your hearts with joy, and don't worry about reading responsibly. It would be nice to hear your voices, though. . .

Question for the day: have you read Little Women, and what did you think?

I read it for the first time when I was in about 6th grade. I hated it. But -- that was because (1) my mother told me how much she'd disliked it (the power of suggestion is strong!) and (2) the character who dies [not giving anything away, almost everyone knows this] is Beth, and that is what I was called at that time. I went on to read all of Louisa May Alcott's books, and I loved all the others. Take a look at An Old-Fashioned Girl, Eight Cousins, and Jack and Jill.

Little Women (1868) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) were published not too far apart. When I was a graduate student, teaching freshmen, I taught the two books back-to-back to illustrate how we think about what boys do versus what girls do. My late-20th-century students were fascinated and dismayed. And very uneducated -- one young woman scoffed when we discussed the scene where Jo sells her hair, and asked, in tones of disdain, "Why didn't she just go out and get a job?"