A Memorable Passage on Christmas by Louisa May Alcott From “Little Women”
Louisa May Alcott was an American writer of young teen fiction. She was born in 1832 and died at age of 55 in 1888. Louisa may Alcott is remembered for her novel ‘Little Women’ and its sequels ‘Good Wives’, ‘Little Men’ and ‘Jo’s Boys’. All these books are considered mini classics and in the world. These books form a niche of their own in English literature.
‘Little Women’ was published in 1868. It was the first in the series of the books she wrote. The novel is based on an account of her childhood and experience with her sisters. It is a story of four sisters namely Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy and is still widely read as a classic. Louisa Alcott modelled the character of Jo on herself, with a subtle difference. In the novel Jo marries, while in real life Alcott remained a spinster and never married.
It will be however wrong to conclude that she had no emotional attachment to a man as she had a romance with a Polish gentleman named Ladislas “Laddie” Wisniewski, who she met while on a visit to Europe. She made entries about him in her diary, which she deleted just before her death. This is typical of the morality of that period where it was not thought good to leave a memory of unrequited love.The character Laurie in her books is perhaps based on Wisniewski.
Alcott and Christmas
Alcott was brought up in not a very affluent house. She experienced shortages during her younger years. This is manifest in the opening scene of the book which starts with Christmas and presents for the sisters. The girls do not have any new clothes, but Amy the youngest of the girls says with a sniff that at least they have father and mother. There is thus an element of anger in the novel and Christmas is the time when the girls realize that they are relatively poor.
Christmas scene and Tone of the Book
The Christmas scene is adroitly used by Alcott to showcase her characters, the young heroines of her novel. Alcott lived during the period of the civil war (1861-65) and she was a staunch protagonist of rights for Negroes. She describes Christmas during the tumultuous war years. Though the family is poor, the girls rally and in the true spirit of Christmas donate their breakfast to a poor family as well as make presents for dear Marmee. Marmee is their mother who brings up the girls as their father was away as a Chaplain during the war. This is one of the most memorable Christmas scenes in English American literature.
Louisa May Alcott and her sisters were brought up by parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson who were transcendentalists. Transcendentalism has been influenced by Asian religions particularly Hinduism and this has been acknowledged by Thoreau in his book ‘Walden’. Transcendentalists believe that people flower to their capability when they are self reliant and independent. This belief influenced the life of Alcott and finds expression in her book ‘Little Women’. In fact the opening Christmas scene in the book sets the tone of the novel.
Louisa may Alcott had contracted Pneumonia and she was treated with mercury, which never left her system and could have been the cause of her death. She died relatively young at the age of 55, an age at which the genius of most writers flower. The novel ‘Little Women’ is still popular and has an important place in American English literature. It’s a book that is read all over the world and has immortalized Louisa May Alcott for all time to come. The Christmas scene can be read and re- read to realize that Louisa was a genius.