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

4.09.2010

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To coast with fun and laughter;
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.


What if I told you that I just read a book that encourages girls to be beautifully feminine and boys to be unashamedly masculine leaders, makes a case for parents discipling their children at home, provides practical ideas for girls to be missionaries in their own homes, and offers sweet comfort for those going through tragedy and pain?

Would you be interested?

What if I further told you that this isn’t a tome of scholarly proportions, long on words and short on excitement. However, it has many antagonists who, grasping at straws, label it imperialistic, sexist [1], and racist [2]. No, this is no tome, but a work of fiction, and one of the best kind. I like a good fiction book along with the best of them, but it must have some sort of purpose, some crucial message. I fell in love with this one's story and message enough that I just had to share it with you all!

Jack and Jill: A Village Story by Louisa May Alcott is a book that I have long been aware of, but somehow have always pegged as a classic for children under eight. And how interesting could a book be if it was over three hundred pages of elaboration on a nursery rhyme? Thankfully, a friend told me how delightful the book was, so I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg and got busy.

What I found was a treasure. The story centers around a rich young boy, Jack, and his friend, Janey, also known as Jill by her friends since she and Jack are such playmates. One day, they go up a hill towing a sled behind them, but they crash headlong at the bottom, and their lives are disastrously changed. With realism, Louisa May Alcott describes the sadness and even bitterness that the children experience in dealing with their injuries. It isn’t until one wintry day that Jill finds the way out of self-pity when talking with her friends and mother:

“I’d like to be a missionary and go where folks throw their babies to the crocodiles. I’d watch and fish them out, and have a school, and bring them up, and convert all the people till they knew better,” said warm-hearted Molly Loo, who befriended every abused animal and forlorn child she met.
“We needn’t go to Africa to be missionaries; they have ‘em nearer home and need ‘em too. In all the big cities there are a many, and they have their hands full with the poor, the wicked, and the helpless. One can find that sort of work anywhere, if one has a mind,” said Mrs. Pecq.
“…It would be fun if we can only get some heathen to work at!” cried Jill, ready for fresh enterprises of every sort.
“I can tell you some one to begin on right away,” said her mother, nodding at her. “As wild a little savage as I’d wish to see. Take her in hand, and make a pretty-mannered lady of her. Begin at home, my lass, and you’ll find missionary work enough for a while.”
“Now, Mammy, you mean me! Well, I will begin; and I’ll be so good, folks won’t know me.”

With her mother by her side, Jill grows from a self-centered, popular, but wild young girl into a young woman with humility, compassion, and wisdom. Jack, in his turn, goes through his own scrapes, but he too emerges more of a man.

This book’s pages are etched with deep sadness, perfect joy, witty humor, and sweet love. It convicted me as even sermons rarely do, highlights girls who were brightening their corner long before I ever did, and challenged me to renewed efforts in brightening my own home, starting by changing myself! I never should have doubted Louisa May Alcott, for when I finally finished the book yesterday, all I could do was sigh with contentment and say with Jack, “That’s a first-rate end to a very good story.”



Picture Credit


Please view these sources with discretion:

[1] Hines, Maude. Missionary Positions: Taming the Savage Girl in Louisa May Alcott's Jack and Jill. The Lion and the Unicorn, Volume 23, Number 3, September 1999, pp. 373-394 (Article).

2 comments:

  1. Awww, you made me want to go steal it from Bronwyn again! Or maybe I should just buy it. :)
    It is a beautiful, wonderful, darling little book, isn't it? Luv it!

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  2. I know, Jack and Jill is just so sweet.
    I love all of L. M. Alcott's books. Have you read An Old Fashioned Girl? That's a good one too. And Eight Cousins/Rose in Bloom....yep all of her books are classics. Most people only know about Little Women and Little Men since there have been movies made of them. They are really missing out.
    Louisa May Alcott's books are some of the most beautifully written, family-centered, character-applauding books I've read.

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