Monday, March 9, 2015

Little Women Read-Along: Being Neighborly (Ch. 5)

Ahh, intrepid Jo, bearding the lion in his den, as it were.  I love that she likes to do "daring things" and decides actually visiting one of their neighbors is one of them.  Off she goes to comfort a sick and bored Laurie, and winds up making friends with his grandfather too.  

I didn't realize that the Marches must have moved into their house not awfully long ago.  But Jo tells Laurie, "We haven't been here a great while, you know, but we have got acquainted with all our neighbors but you" (p. 45).  Do you suppose they moved in when their father went to war?  Or when he loaned money to a friend, who lost it?  I kind of always assumed they'd lived there for always, but not so!

And so cool that Grandfather Laurence was once friends with Jo's grandfather.

Oh, if you were wondering, like I was, what a "blanc mange" is, it seems to be a kind of cross between Jell-o and vanilla pudding.  Also, a "Sleepy Hollow chair" seems to be a really deep easy chair with a back that slants, like this.


Favorite Lines:

"I like adventures, and I'm going to find some" (p. 41).

"It's dull as tombs up here" (p. 42).

"...children should be children as long as they can" (p. 51).


Possible Discussion Question:  At first, Laurie and Jo "got to talking about books, and to Jo's delight, she found that Laurie loved them as well as she did, and had read even more than herself," but a bit later, when Jo goes into raptures about his grandfather's library, Laurie says, "A fellow can't live on books" (p. 46).  What do you think this says about their similarities and differences?

18 comments:

  1. I enjoy Laurie and Jo together. They're so much fun! And I didn't realize that they hadn't lived in their house for that long! I suppose they got it when the fortune was lost. (How did that happen again?)
    Anyway, I think Laurie and Jo are alike, but Laurie may be more practical than Jo, and possibly more cynical from having only books as companions. Books are lovely, but even introverts need people sometimes!

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    1. Back in chapter four, it says, "When Mr. March lost his property in trying to help an unfortunate friend..." I would assume he made a bad investment, in other words. Maybe it will tell us more later, as I don't remember more than that.

      I think you're right, that Laurie has been forced to live with only books, so he knows they can't substitute for real companions. Jo has always dreamed of having unlimited time for reading and thinks it would be awesome, but doesn't know for sure one way or the other.

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  2. I have to agree with Ashley as far as Laurie and Jo and their similarities go - I also think that yes, books are indeed wonderful and thrilling sometimes, but one can't live on them! We need people, real ones anyway...
    This was a beautiful chapter showing the tender, compassionate hearts the March ladies possed... Although poor, they were happy (most of the time - we all hit lows every so often) despite their lack of finance and splendors... I think laurie is lonely and tired of all the fine things in his life and in need of the simple love and care which the sisters and Marmee shared with him...
    Ohh! Blancmange is truly delicious! We have made it often and it is made with jelly and eggs and a few other ingredients...
    And I just loved Jo's funny meeting with Mr Laurence and Laurie's response to her walking arm-in-arm with him! Aww!

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    1. How cool that you've had Blancmange, Kelly-Anne! I had to look it up on Wikipedia.

      And yes, I love how Jo and Mr. Laurence get along instantly :-)

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  3. I wondered what blanc-mange was for years, until I recently read an old cookbook from 1852 and came across a recipe. Here's the book at Project Gutenberg—the recipe is #193: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22114/22114-h/22114-h.htm

    This chapter was a lot of fun! Jo's encounter with old Mr. Laurence is classic, of course. And I didn't remember that line about not living there long, either. Neighborhoods are so different nowadays—most people are lucky if they know the names of the neighbors living within sight of them. From what Jo says, it sounds like the Laurences were the exception then in keeping to themselves.

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    1. Oooh, thanks for the link! That is a fascinating cookbook! And I see its author recommends blanc mange for invalids, so no wonder Jo brought some over for Laurie.

      And yes, neighborhoods are very different now. We've lived in our house for 3 1/2 years, and I know the first names of the couples living on either side of us and of the man across the street, and that's it. If we happen to be outside at the same time, we say hi, and once in a while if we're doing yard work at the same time as one set of neighbors we'll chat a little about the weather. Rather sad, really.

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    2. Yes, exactly. We've lived where we are for almost thirteen years, and have only really gotten acquainted with a couple of our nearest neighbors, mainly elderly people (some of whom have moved away or passed away). By contrast, my parents can still remember and describe everyone who lived on their streets when they were growing up!

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    3. I remember when I would visit my grandparents, who lived in a very small town -- my grandma didn't like her neighbor lady much at all, and yet they visited each other several times a week! Because they were neighbors, and that's what neighbors did.

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  4. I always assume that they moved there when Mr.March lost his fortune. That was when Beth and Amy were still too young to remember, I guess 10 years? Or less?
    How was people, back then, interpreting time? As we know, time is relative. So, how long 'a great while' is?
    (sorry for answering your question with question :p)

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    1. Meg is only 16, so if they had lost their money 10 years ago, she would have only been 6, and I doubt she would have known or cared much about how much or little money they had. Since Jo says they haven't been there a "great while," I'm guessing it's been more like 3-4 years -- that would seem to me to be long enough for them to feel like this house is home, and their old life far enough away that most of the girls don't care about it anymore. Based on my own experiences, anyway -- it usually takes me 2-3 years to feel like a place is really my home.

      If we say 4 years, then Meg would have been 12, old enough to start caring about money and fashion and societal position a bit. Jo would have been 11, but wouldn't really have cared because she's Jo. Beth would have been 9, and Amy 8, and that would be young enough to not remember or miss their old life much by now.

      Maybe we'll get more clues later in the story!

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    2. That makes sense. I was thinking differently about comfort and old life. But now I change my mind, since I remember our different cultures, and your cultures are closer to them than mine :)

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    3. Bzee, maybe part of the difference in the interpretation of "a great while" does come from the difference in ages of our countries? The US has only been a country for 200-some years, and so to us, a hundred years is a reeeeeeeeally long time, and a decade is a long time indeed. In a culture so much older, like yours (you live in Indonesia, am I remembering that correctly?), ten years would seem relatively shorter, maybe?

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  5. Is this the chapter where Beth befriends Mr. Laurence? I love that part:)

    I like Jo's and Mr. Laurence's relationship, too. They're so similar, it's adorable:D

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    1. Nope, Arwen, Beth befriends Mr. Laurence in the next one. This is the one where Jo invites herself over to the Laurence house while Mr. Laurence is out :-)

      And I think this is another reason I identify with Jo -- I'm also very fond of crusty old men!

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  6. One of my favorites of the early chapters! :) It's so fun to see the friendship beginning so delightfully.

    Hmmm. I'm thinking about your discussion question. Maybe Alcott's just trying to make it clear that Laurie is active (or wants to be) and that he's not soft in a bad sense (i.e. "effeminate"). There's not much danger of our misinterpreting Jo at this point. And (this is perhaps obvious), but I think it's also making a point on a basic level, too, about the way girls and boys minds work/how they process things (so how Laurie is going to mix up their daily world a bit -- in a good way). :)

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    1. Yes, I can see that, Heidi. Underlining the differences between boys and even an active, boyish girl like Jo -- makes sense to me!

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  7. I loved Jo's meeting with Mr. Laurence - so funny. And the way she invited herself over - sometimes I wish I had enough courage to take inititives like that.

    I hadn't caught on the mention of them not living there very long. But to me it appears like they lost their money a long time ago, so maybe they stayed at their old house for a while after and only moved when it became really neccessary.

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    1. Rose, isn't Jo a caution, as they used to say? So brave, but not "brazen" or "bold."

      I agree -- I think now that they lost their money when they were little girls, but only moved here more recently, for instance when their father went to war. That does make sense.

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What do you think?

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