Little Women: The First Classic I Remember Loving

Classic Remarks

WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:

What is the first classic you remember loving?

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Little Women First Classic I Remember Loving

I first read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women when I was around eight or nine, and my love for the story has never waned. Though first published in 1868, the story, centered around the coming-of-age of four sisters, has a timeless quality. Their struggles may be different in nature–feeling out of place at a ball, worrying that they do not have enough money to treat friends to pickled limes–but the scenarios are relatable nonetheless. Who has not worried about fitting in at one point or another? Who has not hoped to impress friends, to find a place where they belong? Little Women takes the everyday moments of a life and imparts to them all the seriousness and the importance they deserve. And reading it, one cannot but help that the story is taking them seriously, too.

Part of what I love so much about Little Women is that it seems very much like the type of book that might not be published today. It has no clear plot, no unusual premise, no quirky adventures. It is, quite simply, the story of a few girls’ lives. They begin as teens and girls, and they end as women. Along they way, they experience the ups and downs of life: schoolgirl crushes, new and lost friendships, family tragedy, the first taste of independence as they strike out on their own. But Alcott makes each of these moments supremely interesting because she is able to enter in to what it means to be a girl, and a girl turning into a woman. Small things that seem unimportant to the old and disillusioned can be immensely important to the young. Alcott remembers those feelings, and she lets readers experience them again, too.

I also love that Alcott presents readers with four distinct personalities in her protagonists, and she shows that each is valued. There is no one right way to be a woman. There is Meg, who at first dreams of becoming of becoming an actress, but finds happiness in marriage and motherhood. Fierce Jo, who longs to become a famous author, to discard traditional gender roles, and to support her family. Gentle Beth, whose kindness makes everyone’s lives a little happier. And vain and ambitious Amy, who must at last recognize that she has no artistic genius, but who finds personal fulfillment nonetheless. Each follows a different path–some entering a profession, some choosing the domestic life, some finding wealth, and some content with poverty. But all are presented as worthy of love and support. The women in this book never compete with one another, never put each other down, never suggest that they all have to be the same way in order to be strong. It is a stunning acceptance of womanhood that many a contemporary novel has failed to achieve.

So why do I keep returning again and again to Little Women, the book that first enchanted me when I was a girl? At first, I simply loved the story and the characters, perhaps without really knowing why. As the years pass, however, I always find something new in Little Women–a nuance in a character I had overlooked, a significance in a passage that needed more life experience for me to see it. The book is one that grows and changes with me. But, even so, it also provides important constants: four girls who are valued for their individuality, and the events of their lives that are taken very seriously, “ordinary” as they are. Little Women still moves me because life itself is moving. And Louisa May Alcott has captured four lives perfectly, with all their heartaches and joys.

What is the first classic you remember loving?

14 thoughts on “Little Women: The First Classic I Remember Loving

  1. mphtheatregirl says:

    I believe I read Little Women when I was younger, but didn’t remember why I loved it. So, read it last year- I actually can relate to this book due to being a sister and having a sister myself.

    But wasn’t the first classic I remember loving

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I love the relationships between the sisters! It’s really heartwarming. And the fights they have are also quite realistic. I’m sure Alcott drew on her own sisterly experiences for those!

      Like

  2. Abby @ Beyond the Read says:

    Beautifully written Krysta!! Little Women is also one of the first classics I fell in love with, and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. The story in itself isn’t very exciting, but there’s something magical about it that keeps me coming back for more.

    Like

  3. BookerTalk says:

    I find it too didactic for my taste now though I did enjoy it when I was a child – especially Jo the tomboy. How I wished I was like her!
    It’s a clever book in the sense that having 4 characters, there would be one to appeal to each kind of reader

    Like

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