Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Little Women Read-Along: Artistic Attempts (Ch. 26)

Know what I think is awesome?  That Alcott doesn't make her heroines great at everything they try.  Even the activities they're passionate about don't come easily to them.  And this whole chapter is a great example of that.  Amy loves art, she wants desperately to make Art that Matters and is Important.  And, well... she doesn't.  She keeps trying, but she doesn't turn out to be magically imbued with innate artistic talent that, when she strikes upon the right medium, bursts forth in boundless glory and makes her famous and renowned and respected overnight.

And I find her trying and failing and still trying some more to be a whole lot more relate-able and inspiring, don't you?


Favorite Lines:

Charcoal portraits came next, and the entire family hung in a row, looking as wild and crocky as if just evoked from a coalbin (p. 230).

Mrs. March knew that experience was an excellent teacher, and when it was possible she left her children to learn alone the lessons which she would gladly have made easier, if they had not objected to taking advice as much as they did salts and senna (p. 232).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Were you shocked when only one girl showed up for Amy's party?

Alcott opens the chapter by remarking, "It takes people a long time to learn the difference between talent and genius" (p. 229).  How would you describe the difference?

21 comments:

  1. I like Amy a lot more in this book than the first book, and her character is definitely a lot more relatable.
    I think that talent is a God given gift that comes naturally to the person. I think that genius is when you develop your skill or talent (if you have it). Genius is when you are creative and force yourself to use your mind. Genius and talent can both grow and be developed. I think that talent can help genius and genius can help talent. I am not sure if this response is accurate, but I am very curious to see what other people think.

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    1. Ekaterina, I agree. Amy is much more likable now.

      Interesting take on talent versus genius! I haven't decided at all how I would describe the difference, but I like your thought that the two can aid each other.

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  2. From the way Alcott leading the story, I knew that something bad would happen at the party. I'm glad to see how the family cope with the unpredictable event, and I love Jo's reactions over this chapter.
    I agree with Ekaterina. Talent is naturally given, and genius is a product of learning. While talent can do everything right, genius can do something to make everything's right by identifying the problem and working for it. For outsiders, it might not easy to notice because they only see the result, not the process. That's my opinion.

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    1. Bzee, yes, she did give us some pretty good hints that things would not go well for Amy's party. I think any time Marmee kind of raises her eyebrows and said, "Are you sure about this?" we kind of know there's trouble ahead.

      So you see talent as knowing innately how to do a thing the right way, but genius sees things that aren't right and figures out how to fix them, is that what you're saying? Intriguing thought!

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    2. That is. If you ever read manga entitled Glass Mask, you'll see the models of my definition on the characters. Maya is the talented one, while Ayumi is a genius.

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  3. There's an old quote, "Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see." I guess this sums up my thoughts on the difference between the two. By diligence and hard work, anyone with a natural ability can become good at something. Genius is being able to take that foundation of skill and ability and use it to create something which no one has seen or thought of before.
    I, too, liked Amy a lot more in this chapter, which went a long way in making her a more sympathetic character.

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    1. Lynn M, so do you think genius is kind of an intensified version of talent? Like, talent is being able to write a good novel over the course of a year or two, with many revisions, but genius is being able to write a good novel in two months and get it published with no real revisions needed at all? Or are you saying they're more different from each other than that?

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    2. No, that's not exactly what I mean... it's not that someone with genius doesn't have to work as hard at something, necessarily. Hmm... it's a little hard to put into words, but take music, for instance. A person could practice for years and become a very talented or even expert musician, but never go beyond playing or interpreting the works of others. Someone else may put in the same amount of work- perhaps not even be as technically accurate- and yet see beyond the works of others, able to create music of originality and beauty. Does that make any sense?

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    3. Lynn M, yes, that does make sense. You see talent as having an aptitude for something, but genius as having a special ability beyond the usual?

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  4. Technically the word genius means an exceptional natural capacity for something...like the ability to learn a skill to a higher level than someone else. I would agree that genius can only be discovered through someone's dedication to his or her craft, though. I like this post, and I love Alcott's flawed characters, too! It is easier to relate to them, because they feel like real people who have difficulties.

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    1. I've always thought of genius as someone who just picked up whatever they have a genius for with ease. Like Bobby Darin, who reportedly could pick up any musical instrument, fiddle with it for a minute or two, and know how to play it. Not play it like a virtuoso, but play it as if he'd been taught how. As opposed to my mom, who has a wonderful talent for playing the piano, especially for sight-reading, but has practiced for many years to play that well.

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    2. That's interesting. I guess I've always thought of it in the opposite way. Natural talent being like Bobby Darin, you mom's ability to learn being genius. Hm.

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    3. Interesting! A difference in definitions, perhaps?

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    4. Perhaps. Probably a couple of words where the nuances were somewhat lost in translation from root words. That seems to happen quite a bit in English.

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  5. I loved reading about Amy's journey through different kinds of art, it was really funny and quite relatable. Amy is much more likable now than in part one and though it was a shame that her party fell through, it was really enjoyable to read about her struggles. And I think she learned her lesson quite well.

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    1. Rose, yes! Amy is so much more likable now that she's not so self-absorbed. And I think this lesson was awesome for her to learn that not everything she plans will work, and not everyone will do things just cuz she expects them to.

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  6. I agree with Ekaterina - in the first book, Amy frankly just annoys me, but in the second, I rather like her. She's deeper and more thoughtful and responsible.

    Yes, it's nice when an author is actually honest about people, isn't it?!

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    1. Olivia -- definitely! I don't mind reading Amy-centric chapters in the second half.

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  7. Oh, I too like Amy so much more in Good Wives! And I have always enjoyed Alcott's realisitic, relate-able characters... I actually felt quite sorry for Amy in this chapter - it is never nice having something that you've invested so much time and thought into not work out according to plan!

    As I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, I didn't enjoy the references to art and artistic terms in the beginning of this chapter, but I did like getting a closer look at Amy's personality!

    Interesting thoughts on talent versus genius...I must admit I have never given it too much thought. For me, I think that talent is something God gives each of us, but it is up to us to discover, pursue and perfect it. And, like Amy, we see that it isn't always easy and smooth sailing!
    I think Mozart would be a great example of pure genius! He certainly had a natural ability and a remarkable gift and he didn't he even need to 'perfect' it as such...

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    1. I like your definition -- talent is something God gives us, but we have to work at improving our abilities. And geniuses don't have to.

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