Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Little Women Read-Along: Meg Goes to Vanity Fair (Ch. 9)

I'm wondering if I took this chapter very much to heart as a young girl, and that's part of why I have never tried to dress fashionably?  That would be nice, though I think the truth is probably that I simply wasn't born with the "wear what's cool" gene or something.  But anyway, poor Meg.  She tries to fit in, and succeeds, but then discovers that everything has its price, even beauty and popularity.

Here we have another example of Marmee admitting she's also not perfect.  She says, "I was very unwise to let you go among people of whom I knew so little (p. 87).  Another difference between Alcott and other writers of children's fiction in the 1800s (that I've read, anyway):  the adults aren't perfect and all-wise and ever-patient in her books.  

That being said, Marmee is very wise, isn't she?  I love her whole speech at the end of the chapter about what she wants for her girls as they grow up.  Heart-warming for sure.

Random thing I realized:  the Moffats call Meg "Daisy" while she's with them, and later on, that's what she names (or nicknames?) her daughter.  Perhaps she was happier with them than she'd realized at the time?  Or does Meg keep that nickname, and I've forgotten?

There's also a mention of the family having been poor for a while now.  Jo told Laurie they hadn't lived there for very long, so perhaps they moved into this house when their father went into the army?  But they had been poor for some time before that, it would seem.

Possible Discussion Questions:  After Meg overhears people speculating about her and Laurie, Alcott says, "She was proud, and her pride was useful just then, for it helped her hide her mortification, anger, and disgust at what she had just heard" (p. 79).  Can faults sometimes be useful?  Should we still try to conquer them if they are?  What do you think Alcott's response to those questions would be?

16 comments:

  1. Haha, I feel you on the "wearing-what's-cool" gene. It just doesn't work;)

    I love Marmee! And the fact that the girls call her Marmee (I was thinking yesterday that it's probably because of some slip they made when they were younger, accidentally putting an 'r' in 'mommy', or something like that).

    About the discussion question: Ooh, getting deep here, aren't we?;) My original answer is…..I don't know, hehe. It does give you some food for thought, though, doesn't it?

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    1. Yes, Arwen, I've always figured they called her that as a mutation of "Mama" or "Mommy." It's endearing, for sure.

      And yeah, I don't have a good answer for the discussion questions either. Definitely food for thought!

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  2. Hmmm.... Some interesting lessons in this chapter!
    While I do love Meg and she is my favourite character, I didn't enjoy her very much in this chapter... She received a warning from Laurie when he told her he didn't like 'Fuss and Feathers', yet she continued to be a 'doll'... Interesting!
    I'm not into fashions either - I've never been able to be and I am thankful! It is so easy to get carried away, as we see with Meg... But, like Meg, I do like pretty things and have to daily 'count my blessings' and strive for contentment! For there is great beauty in the simple things in life:)
    Oh! I just LOVED Marmee's wise words at the end of this chapter! While she has faults I'm sure, she is a lady one can gain incredible advice from!
    And I'm afraid I don't have an answer to your question either - certainly something to ponder!

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    1. Kelly-Anne, I know that sometimes, when I'm doing something I think I maybe shouldn't, and someone calls me on it, I get defensive of my actions and pursue them more, to show I think I'm okay. Maybe Meg felt the same, regarding Laurie's warning/chiding?

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  3. Oh, poor Meg. She tries so hard and then definitely fails in this chapter. And I do so empathize with that impulse. I really do love clothes and I know how they can take just a little too much hold. And, yes, Marmee's speech at the end is so warming and cozy. And really good advice! I think it's a message that a lot of young girls would still benefit from today.

    Hm…about your discussion question-Yes! I would say that small doses of a fault can actually be very helpful. For instance, I mentioned in one of your previous posts that I have Jo's fault of a pretty strong temper. However, there have been times when that temper and sense of injustice has been something I was glad of. Although, obviously, faults still need to be kept in check.

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    1. CGrace, I think you're right, that faults can be used for good. I think the key here is that a fault is not the same as a sin. It's a weakness that could lead to sin, but won't necessarily. For instance, my greatest fault is that I'm stubborn, so being stubborn and insisting on doing something wrong is bad, but being stubborn and insisting on NOT doing something wrong is good. We have to recognize our faults and keep watch over them, but not eliminate them entirely.

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  4. I kind of think "Daisy" was a common nickname for the name Margaret at that time.

    I found myself really liking Laurie in this chapter, with his reaction to Meg's appearance and the way he tries to watch out for her. It occurred to me that it's a bit ironic, Meg saying how she knew he "didn't think she was proper," and then later in the book it's Jo and the others lecturing Laurie for doing things they don't approve of.

    Oh, and I've always loved the moment when Meg decides to get back a bit at the gossiping girls by pretending not to know which Mr. Laurence they mean and calling Laurie a "little boy." One of the more rare moments when she gets to display a bit of spirit and a sense of humor!

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    1. Elisabeth, nicknames fascinate me. Really? Daisy for Margaret? That makes even less sense than Sally for Sarah.

      And yes, we see a lot of things come full circle in this book, don't we?

      And yesyesyes, I love it when she teases the girls. So funny!

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    2. The French name for the flower we call a daisy is "marguerite" and so the name Margaret is simply an Anglicized version of the French word for "daisy."

      The one that breaks my brain is "Peg" or "Peggy" for "Margaret." What the actual?

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    3. Thanks, Meetzorp! That does make sense.

      So many English names have odd nicknames because once upon a time, there were only a few names in common use, so I guess the way people got nicknames was to change the first letter of a nickname. Meg to Peg, Dick for Rick, etc.

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  5. Some faults can help you out of trouble in the short term, as anyone who's ever told a lie to get themselves out of a tough spot can attest to, but I think most would agree that in the long run, it's not helpful or healthy. Pride is a bit trickier, as it can be defined in different ways; there's nothing wrong with having enough self-respect to refrain from saying or doing things you know are beneath you, as long as it doesn't turn into "improper pride," a la Mr. Darcy. I think that Alcott would probably urge working to rid oneself of personal flaws... she seems to have been big on self-improvement.

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    1. Lynn M., as I said in a comment above a few minutes ago, I think the key here is that a fault is not the same as a sin. (Obviously, this only applies if you believe in sins, or absolute right and absolute wrong). Lying is a sin, just like stealing, murdering, committing adultery, and so on. Being proud is not, but it IS a fault, or can be. I think we use the word to mean two different things these days. One is "a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, or the achievements of another." The other is "an inflated sense of one's personal status or accomplishments," which we also call hubris. The first is good, even healthy -- to look at what we've done and see we did a good job, or to have self-respect and not want others to disrespect us. Mr. Darcy, I think, fell into the second category -- he had hubris -- he thought more of himself than he should have.

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  6. Good thought question! I don't know.... I've heard it speculated on a bit in regards to Darcy (that there can be a good sort of pride -- a pride we would often think of as linked to a healthy and humble self-respect).

    I was thinking this time around how interesting it is to see Meg's experience in high society/fashion here as compared to Amy's later experience (where she very definitely dresses fashionably, etc). It really almost seems Alcott's main point is not whether or not certain fashions were "indecent" (though obviously, some very much were and it is a point in the chapter), so much as the heart attitude. Unless, of course, she changed her mind by the time she reached Amy's development later....which doesn't seem tremendously likely.

    (Oh! And Elisabeth already pointed it out ;), but Daisy was a common nickname for Margaret.)

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    1. Heidi, yes, exactly. I think there are good and bad forms of pride, just as there are good and bad anger, stubbornness, talkativeness, etc. If carried to and extreme, anything can be bad! It's good to be proud of your family and want people to respect them, but not good to go around thinking you're better than other people.

      Regarding fashion, I think part of Alcott's point was that Meg was pretending to be fashionable. She was, in effect, lying about who she is. When Amy moves in fashionable circles later on, she really is fashionable -- she's travelling abroad with her rich aunt, and not pretending to be someone she isn't. What do you think?

      And I'll say it again -- nicknames are wacky and fascinating! I definitely learned something new today, thanks to you and Elisabeth.

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    2. Yes, I was actually thinking about that in regards to stubbornness, too. Stubbornness seems to be my besetting sin, so believe me, I've pondered it quite a bit. Figuring out exactly where strength and determination end and stubbornness begins. I guess it has to do with your underlying motives for determination in any given situation. Is it for a good thing pursued in the right way? Or just because I want my own way now?

      And excellent point about the fashion! That makes a ton of sense.... and it's pretty neat into the bargain! ;)

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    3. Exactly, Heidi. Am I being stubborn because I'm being selfish? Am I being stubborn because I know I'm right? Kind of what we got into in Persuasion, isn't it? Stubbornness can actually be a kind of self-persuasion, I think.

      I'm glad you liked my thoughts about the fashion thing! I made that up on the spot and thought it made sense.

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What do you think?

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