Thursday, May 28, 2015

Amy March: A Guest Post by Heidi

Amy March
by Heidi Peterson



Growing up, Meg was always my favorite of the March sisters, but (while I've now come to appreciate Jo's complexity and character development, and also Beth's sweetness and patience) of late I've been most particularly intrigued (and impressed!) by Amy.

Not universally (but often), Amy seems to be viewed as merely, "Oh yes, the youngest sister that eventually gets Laurie."  End of Story. But I think she very much deserves some attention and a closer examination in her own right.

Amy goes from being slightly spoiled at the beginning -- walking through life with her nose in the air (also exhibiting vengeful anger and a horrible lack of self-control in the incident with Jo's burned book) -- to a truly lovely, kind, cultured woman. Throughout, she is very consciously striving to live out what she believes.



Now, Alcott was pretty certainly writing from a transcendentalist worldview, i.e. leading in part to the idea of a person willing themselves to certain virtues, goodness, etc., whereas we know it's God -- and only ever God -- who can do the work in us, strengthening and giving us both the ability and desire to live out His commands. He alone is always, always initiating (doing the work in us that we absolutely never could) yet, as we're yielding to His working hand, it's definitely still a cognitive process, played out in time and space. At some point (or many points!) we have to make the conscious decision to act in ways that don't come naturally to us (being polite, gracious, forgiving, etc.) whether or not we feel like it.

On the day-to-day level, I like to think of it in terms of C.S. Lewis's words. To quote: 
"The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less."
And I think Amy finds out this great secret.



Growing womanly over the course of the story, she's also a beautiful example of honest humility and wise discretion. She's diligent, not afraid of hard work (she never complains), and she's strong -- making her decisions and sticking with them, yet not afraid to change her mind. She isn’t afraid of wholesome confrontation, but -- dropping the petty, sinful squabbles of childhood -- becomes the woman who can rouse Laurie to reality and action. She also isn't too stubborn to change when he, in turn, candidly points out her weaknesses.



Finally Amy -- a true and gracious woman thinking first of others, seeking to bless and help them with her talents and gifts -- becomes the perfect lover and helpmeet for her husband.



(Hamlette's Note:  Thank you for this beautiful portrait of Amy and the way her character growth can inspire us on our own personal journeys!  Also, I loooooove the paintings you chose to illustrate this.)

20 comments:

  1. Oh Heidi! What a truly beautiful post describing Amy's sweet personality! You painted her just right...I am finding myself so inspired by her lately, something I didn't ever think possible considering the selfish, spoilt child she was... And very encouraging, too, that even she could grow up to be a lovely, graceful woman with a sincere heart...
    Blessings!
    Kelly-Anne

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    1. Kelly-Anne,
      Thank you so much for your sweet words -- and I'm so very glad you were encouraged! :)

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  2. Yes, I definitely agree: Amy is a wonderful character who deserves more attention. In a way, she reminds me a bit of Jane Austen's Emma: Like Emma, she was kind of spoiled and unpleasant as a child, but worked to overcome those problems as she got older.

    What I always wonder when reading Little Women is, why didn't Marmee discipline Amy better as a kid? Was it because Amy was her youngest and she just couldn't bear to be strict with her? But Marmee seems like such a wise woman in other respects, you'd think she would surely realize that SOME discipline is necessary if you want to teach your children how to be good. It's not like you have to be cruel or anything, you just need to make them understand that there are limits and that breaking the limits brings consequences.

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    1. Jessica,
      You're right, she does have quite a few similarities to Emma!

      And yes, I wonder the same thing. My guess is that it was part of a certain movement and/or reaction to things that were happening in society at large (rightly or wrongly, as sometimes things are painted darker than they actually are).

      Alcott seems to pretty clearly want to make the point that the March parents are ruling and training through "love not fear," but I guess our definitions would be different. To me, proper boundaries don't mean you're ruling through fear -- but that wise and gracious consequences are an essential, defining aspect of love.

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    2. Yes, I agree--after all, that's how it is with God: He loves us, but He doesn't let us do whatever we want with no consequences, because He knows that wouldn't be good for us.

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  3. A lovely post! I particularly like how Alcott's worldview is incorporated into the written portrait of Amy. It's always helpful to be able to get into the author's head a little, to appreciate the story more.

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    1. Cleopatra,
      Thank you and I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

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  4. Well written Heidi! I definitely agree. Amy has really grown on me. :)

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    1. Lois,
      Thank you and I'm glad you agree!

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  5. Ah, yes. At first I didn't really like Amy, but as the story goes on she grows on me more and more. :)

    ~Lydia~ <3

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    1. Lydia,
      She is lovely after you come to study her a bit, isn't she?

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  6. Nice post, Heidi! Amy had changed quite much, physically and mentally. And I can help but appreciate her more :)

    Hamlette, I just notice your new header, that's nice, classic!

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    1. Thanks, Bzee! I just changed it yesterday. Monet is one of my favorite artists, you see...

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    2. Bzee,
      So happy you enjoyed it and thank you!

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  7. A great post, Heidi!
    I also find myself very impressed by Amy's character development. You can really see she has grown up and tried to leave her selfish trait behind her.

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    1. Rose,
      Thank you! And yes, it's really quite impressive. Particularly when you see study that thread of selfishness she had at the beginning -- seeing how she leaves it behind, becoming lovely and gracious.

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  8. That was a lovely post. Thank you Heidi!
    I have to agree with you about Amy changing from spoiled girl to a beautiful woman. When I first read the book, I didn't really think much of her, except disliking her for burning Jo's book and the fact that we both loved art. I wonder if my thinking of her has changed because of me reading it many times or my thought process has changed as I've grown older.

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    1. Ekaterina,
      Me too! It's definitely hard to tell what affects your different understanding of a character over time when it's someone you've "grown up with." :) And thank you!

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  9. Hamlette,
    Thanks again so much for having me!!! :)

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