Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

9.01.2009

Little Women


There is a little book which has resided on our family’s bookshelf as long as I can remember. Yet try as I might, I could never manage to finish the exactly 500 page volume. I began it at least half a dozen times over the years, never making it much past page fifty, despite its liveliness and my interest in it. Henry Thoreau was right, however, when he said, “read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all,” and so this very morning I completed the book: Little Women. If you have never gotten around to reading this treasure, I must warn you that while I empathize with your plight, I am on a mission to proselytize you.
In Little Women, you will find the stories of four sisters, and the account of their childish whims, hopes, dreams, insecurities, failings, and triumphs. Their dear mother and father guide them along the way:

"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…."
"Poor girls don't stand any chance, Belle says, unless they put themselves forward," sighed Meg.
"Then we'll be old maids," said Jo stoutly.
"Right, Jo. Better be happy old maids than unhappy wives, or unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands," said Mrs. March decidedly. "Don't be troubled, Meg, poverty seldom daunts a sincere lover. Some of the best and most honored women I know were poor girls, but so love-worthy that they were not allowed to be old maids. Leave these things to time. Make this home happy, so that you may be fit for homes of your own, if they are offered you, and contented here if they are not. One thing remember, my girls. Mother is always ready to be your confidant, Father to be your friend, and both of us hope and trust that our daughters, whether married or single, will be the pride and comfort of our lives."
"We will, Marmee, we will!" cried both, with all their hearts, as she bade them good night.
(From Chapter Nine)

Somewhere along the way, these girls changed: Meg gave up her high ideals of dramatic love for a quiet but difficult romance; Jo lost the need to prove herself and realized that family is better than any fame or fortune she could have gained; Beth confronted her most difficult challenge; and Amy found humility and, with her airs, selfishness, and vanity gone, formed a beautiful character.
It’s Jo’s poetry, however, that sums up the story best:

Four little chests all in a row,
Dim with dust, and worn by time,
Four women, taught by weal and woe
To love and labor in their prime.
Four sisters, parted for an hour,
None lost, one only gone before,
Made by love's immortal power,
Nearest and dearest evermore.
Oh, when these hidden stores of ours
Lie open to the Father's sight,
May they be rich in golden hours,
Deeds that show fairer for the light,
Lives whose brave music long shall ring,
Like a spirit-stirring strain,
Souls that shall gladly soar and sing
In the long sunshine after rain.

I am just a bit older than Meg was when the story opens—and with four girls in our family, we often attempt to find our bit of resemblance in each character. I cannot help but contemplate, however, the deeper meaning behind this piece of literature. I think of my three sisters and I—of our whims, hopes, dreams, insecurities, failings, and triumphs. I hope that we will be as transformed in ten years as Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy were, but I know that such a transformation will only be wrought by sorrows and cares as well as successes and happiness.
In Chapter Thirteen, Jo rashly but sincerely exclaimed, “I’d have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled with books, and I’d write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie’s music. I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle—something heroic, or wonderful—that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous; that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.”
However, in the very last chapter—forty-seven—Amy asked Joe about that very thing:

"And yet your life is very different from the one you pictured so long ago. Do you remember our castles in the air?" asked Amy, smiling as she watched Laurie and John playing cricket with the boys.
"Dear fellows! It does my heart good to see them forget business and frolic for a day," answered Jo, who now spoke in a maternal way of all mankind. "Yes, I remember, but the life I wanted then seems selfish, lonely, and cold to me now.”

Jo discovered what all children must learn before they can grow up: personal glory, riches, or pleasure pale in comparison to giving others joy, comfort, and love. Ten years is a long time in the life of four sisters, but I hope that we may put it to as good a use as the March family.

7 comments:

  1. Hooray! You finished the book! Now I'll have to read it... :p
    Always growing and learning is a hard commitment to make, but so worth it in the long run as learn more about and grow closer to our God. Thanks for the reminder! :)

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  2. Mikaela,
    What a fun post!! :) I really like Little Women too, in fact we girls plan to watch the movie this winter! Katie

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  3. Hopefully I've inspired you, Sarah. It's well worth it!
    Which version do you plan to watch, Katie? Our family owns and loves the 1994 version (from which the picture is taken)...in fact, I have a distinct memory of going and seeing it in the theater...at the age of 4! ;-)

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  4. I am not sure what version we will watch, but I definitely love the older versions. We girls have come up with a list of "girl movies" to watch this winter. :) Have you seen any Jane Austen movies? Katie

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  5. Yes, I'm thinking that I shall have to check out some of the many, many older versions of Little Women and compare them all! I love J.A.--I've seen P&P (the one with Ehle and the one with Knightley), S&S (with Emma Thompson), Emma (Paltrow), and Persuasion (Amanda Root as Anne).

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  6. Hello! I just discovered your blog through Daughter of Vision. I noticed that you (Mikaela) teach piano. That's so neat! I took piano for five years but then left it during my rebellious years. Now, three years later, I am back and ready to commit myself to mastering it in the hopes of being able to someday teach piano from my home.

    In Him,
    Paulina

    P.S. I will be adding your blog to my blogroll!

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  7. Aw, what a neat post, Mikaela! I really enjoyed the 1994 "Little Women". I saw it just a few months ago for the first time.

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