Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott
Published: 1868
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This novel set in the American Civil War period, is about the lives of four young sisters in their teens .Their father is serving in Civil War and so they grow up under their mother's loving care who inculcates moral values and shapes their characters. The first part of the story is mainly about how these girls under the guidance of their mother work on overcoming their limitations like vanity, short temper, shyness, selfishness etc.
The second part is about their growing up into fine young ladies, getting married and settling in their family lives.
The novel is loosely based on author's experiences of growing up with her sisters as a teenager. The story is very simple and heartwarming and will appeal to anyone who has a strong belief in family values and relationships.
The book is rather long (more than 800 pages), actually the second part was originally a separate book called "Good Wives".Later it was combined with the first part to form a single novel.
There are many inspiring passages in this book. I have given some excerpts below - the ones I especially liked. If you don't have the inclination to read the entire book, you can browse through these excerpts . I also strongly recommend reading at least Chapter 45 - Daisy and Demi, which is an hilarious account of antics of two small kids. In my opinion this is the best part of the book and I hope there will be more of such narrations in
Little Men a sequel to this book , which I plan to read someday.

Inspiring Passages from Little Women

1. "We never are too old for this, my dear, because it is a play we are playing all the time in one way or another. Out burdens are here, our road is before us, and the longing for goodness and happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles and mistakes to the peace which
is a true Celestial City." (Chapter 1)

2. "There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind." (Chapter 4)

3. "I don't envy her much, in spite of her money, for after all rich people have about as many worries as poor ones" (Chapter 4)

4. "As I sat cutting out blue flannel jackets today at the rooms, I felt very anxious about Father, and thought how lonely and helpless we should be , if anything happened to him. It was not a wise thing to do, but I kept on worrying till an old man came in with an order for some clothes. He sat down near me, and I began to talk to him, for he looked poor and tired and anxious.

`Have you sons in the army?' I asked, for the note he brought was not to me.

Yes, ma'am. I had four, but two were killed, one is a prisoner, and I'm going to the other, who is very sick in a Washington hospital.' he answered quietly.

`You have done a great deal for your country, sir,' I said, feeling respect now, instead of pity.

`Not a mite more than I ought, ma'am. I'd go myself, if I was any use. As I ain't, I give my boys, and give 'em free.'

He spoke so cheerfully, looked so sincere, and seemed so glad to give his all, that I was ashamed of myself. I'd given one man and thought it too much, while he gave four without grudging them. I had all my girls to comfort me at home, and his last son was waiting, miles away, to say good-by to him, perhaps! I felt so rich, so happy thinking of my blessings, that I made him a nice bundle, gave him some money, and thanked him heartily for the lesson he had taught me." (Chapter 4)

5. "You are getting to be rather conceited, my dear, and it is quite time you set about correcting it. You have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long, even if it is, the consciousness of possessing and using it well should satisfy one, and the great charm of all power is modesty." (Chapter 7)

6. "Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault" (Chapter 8)

7. "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, 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 my 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 confidently as you come to your mother." (Chapter 8)

8. "That is perfectly natural, and quite harmless, if the liking does not become a passion and lead one to do foolish or unmaidenly things. Learn to know and value the praise which is worth having, and to excite the admiration of excellent people by being modest as well as pretty, Meg." (Chapter 9)

9. "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.

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 confidante, Father to be your friend, and both of hope and trust that our daughters, whether married or single, will be the pride and comfort of out lives." (Chapter 9)

10. "Wealth is certainly a most desirable thing, but poverty has its sunny side, and one of the sweet uses of adversity is the genuine satisfaction which comes from hearty work of head or hand, and to the inspiration of necessity, we owe half the wise, beautiful, and useful blessings of the world." (Chapter 27)

11. "That's the right spirit, my dear. A kiss for a blow is always best, though it's not very easy to give it sometimes, said her mother, with the air of one who had learned the difference between preaching and practicing." (Chapter 30)

12. " For poverty enriches those who live above it, and is a sure passport to truly hospitable spirits" (Chapter 43)

13. "Rich people have no right to sit down and enjoy themselves, or let their money accumulate for others to waste. It's not half so sensible to leave legacies when one dies as it is to use the money wisely while alive, and enjoy making one's fellow creatures happy with it." (Chapter 44)

14. "So the young pair shook hands upon it, and then paced happily on again, feeling that their pleasant home was more homelike because they hoped to brighten other homes, believing that their own feet would walk more uprightly along the flowery path before them, if they smoothed rough ways for other feet, and feeling that their hearts were more closely knit together by a love which could tenderly remember those less blest than they." (Chapter 44)

15. "Rich people's children often need care and comfort, as well as poor. I've seen unfortunate little creatures left to servants, or backward ones pushed forward, when it's real cruelty. Some are naughty through mismanagment or neglect, and some lose their mothers. Besides, the best have to get through the hobbledehoy age, and that's the very time they need most patience and kindness. People laugh at them, and hustle them about, try to keep them out of sight, and expect them to turn all at once from pretty children into fine young men. They don't complain much plucky little souls but they feel it." (Chapter 47)

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