Thursday, May 21, 2015

Little Women Read-Along: Beth's Secret (Ch. 36)

Best as I can tell, this is the sort of thing one wore at the sea side
in the 1860s, so imagine Jo and Beth in something like this.

Another sad chapter :-(  A poignant and soft sadness, though, not like the messy, sloppy sadness of the previous one.  My, how brave both Beth and Jo are, facing such loss, such sorrow with so much courage and acceptance.

Isn't that first description of Beth's face stunning?  "It was no paler, and but little thinner than in the autumn, yet there was a strange, transparent look about it, as if the mortal was slowly being refined away, and the immortal shining through the frail flesh with an indescribably pathetic beauty" (p. 331).  Wow.  You can really tell that Alcott knows whereof she writes, huh?  Her own sister Elizabeth died young, and I imagine writing about fictional Beth's illness and death must have been both painful and cathartic for Alcott.

Favorite Lines:

Simple, sincere people seldom speak much of their piety.  It shows itself in acts rather than in words, and has more influence than homilies or protestations (p. 333).

Possible Discussion Questions:

What do you think of the fact that Beth seems to have almost foreseen her own early death by never imagining a grown-up life for herself?  Is this realistic?  Or a fictional device?


  1. Oh, a painful, sad chapter indeed! How my heart aches for the March family...I couldn't imagine losing a sister in such a way!
    I unfortunately do not know how to best answer your question...can anyone truly know anything until the day comes...?
    Yay! Almost caught up now -- I am sooo enjoying this book! It has always been a favourite of mine:)

    1. We need to be so thankful for modern medicine, that makes young deaths much more rare than they once were. Now we see this as a tragic, but isolated, incident, whereas of course before antibiotics and so on, young people died from even minor things all the time.

  2. Two sad chapters in A row, it is almost too much.
    I don't Think Beth always knew she would die, it is more likely one of those coincidences that would have been forgotten, if she had lived on, but are suddenly given importance because it fits The situation. Or it could be A plot point....

    1. Rose, yes, it's such a lot of sadness.

      I don't think Beth always knew, either, but she seems to have known since earlier in the novel, when Jo thought she was in love with Laurie. This is what she was sad about instead.


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