It's been so much fun to revisit Little Women; it's just one of those books that is good for the soul with every reread.
This time, my absolute favorite chapter was "Domestic Experiences," in which Meg and John Brooke are adjusting to new married life. Meg has one of those days where everything seems terrible, and John brings home a colleague for dinner unexpectedly. He doesn't realize why there's anything wrong with that. Then they have a heated discussion about their budget. Then Meg confesses to being jealous of her friends who seem to have everything she wants. The whole chapter is full of those little struggles which seem so momentous and trying at the time, but ultimately lead to more strength and intimacy in marriage.
Speaking of jealousy, this book has SO much to say about contentment. The March sisters are not rich, but they remind each other often that they are #blessed. I got teary reading Marmee's "plans" for her children:
"I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send.
To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman; and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience. It is natural to think of it, Meg; right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for it; so that, when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy. My dear girls, I am ambitious for you; but not to have you make a dash in the world, marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes, because love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing, and when well used a noble thing; but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.”
Let's realize that yes, this is old fashioned, and it doesn't acknowledge the presence of careers or other vocations, etc. It's not perfect. Fine.
Now we can embrace how utterly lovely these words are. This is a theme that runs through the whole book- that money, though "needful," can't buy the joy that exists in a loving family. The book actually begins with the March sisters having to decide what to do with the little money they have for Christmas. The sisters often compare themselves to other girls, but ultimately each learns in her own way that money won't bring them happiness- Meg in her aforementioned marriage struggles, Jo in her writing from her heart and not for payment, Beth in her simple holiness, and Amy in her desire to give once she finally does have wealth. Good lessons for us, even and especially today.
I really have loved reading Little Women this month because I hadn’t ever read it before, and it has so many little nuggets of wisdom in it that many times I put my book down and had to stop and think about what was written so I could reflect upon its meaning for my life. I think that’s the mark of well written content.
I have one favorite part of the book that I want to talk about. It’s when Jo and Amy get into a big argument in the "Jo Meets Apollyon" chapter. Amy ends up burning Jo’s life work, and Jo promises to basically never forgive her. Then Amy follows Jo and Laurie when they go ice skating, and she falls into the ice. Jo realizes how silly her unforgiveness was and has a heart-to-heart with Marmee about tempers and anger. Marmee says,
“Don’t cry so bitterly, but remember this day, and resolve with all your soul that you will never know another like it. Jo, dear, we all have our temptations, some far greater than yours, and it often takes us all our lives to conquer them. You think your temper is the worst in the world, but mine used to be just like it.”
“Yours, Mother? Why, you are never angry!” And for the moment Jo forgot remorse in surprise.
“I’ve been trying to cure it for forty years, and have only succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo, but I have learned not to show it, and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.”
I love how real Marmee is with Jo. She’s like, look I have an anger problem too, and it sucks and it comes up every day. But she tells Jo to deal with it. She loves her in her struggle and doesn’t leave her there.
The second quotation I want to share is from the same section of the book--Marmee and Jo are still talking, but Marmee is now sharing her thoughts with Jo about allowing her husband to fight in the war:
“Why should I complain, when we both have merely done our duty and will surely be the happier for it in the end? If I don’t seem to need help, it is because I have a better friend, even than Father to comfort and sustain me. My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning and may be many, but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother."
This was one of the times I had to put my book down and reflect. Great words, great wisdom. It made me want to change my dream of becoming Maria von Trapp to becoming Marmee.
We hope you enjoyed reading along with us if you did! Hopefully you found some little nuggets of wisdom while you read the book as well. We can't wait to share with you our February choice for book club! Feel free to leave your favorite parts of the book in the comments. We'd love to hear your perspective too!