Sunday, May 17, 2015

Little Women Read-Along: Friend (Ch. 34)

This book just gets better and better.  If you're a fan of Professor Bhaer or Jo, anyway :-)  I keep going, "This chapter is my favorite.  No, this chapter is my favorite."  Isn't this one wonderful?  How subtly Professor Bhaer influences Jo to give up the writing he believes is beneath her, and which her conscience is telling her she shouldn't continue!  Just shows you what great power a good friend can have, whether we realize it or not.

And then by the end, I'm feeling so very sad for Professor Bhaer.  When I got to the part where, "'It is not for me, I must not hope it now,' he said to himself, with a sigh that was almost a groan" (p. 321), I kind of choked up for a minute.  Oh my goodness, poor, good, dear Professor Bhaer.  And yet, he was so good and kind, even in his disappointment, as to see Jo off at the train, with "a bunch of violets to keep her company."

Favorite Lines:

She took to writing sensation stories, for in those dark ages, even all-perfect America read rubbish (p. 309).

He was neither rich nor great, young nor handsome, in no respect what is called fascinating, imposing, or brilliant, and yet he was as attractive as a genial fire, and people seemed to gather about him as naturally as about a warm hearth (p. 313).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Of course, here also comes the great discussion that we've been dipping into in the comments already:  Alcott wrote sensational stories herself, and reportedly enjoyed writing them more than writing moralistic stories for the young.  Alcott clearly based Jo on herself.  Are we then to think that Alcott regards the writing she enjoyed to be worthless or dangerous?  Or is she putting this here as an obligatory warning she thinks her audience wants to hear, a warning she herself had no intention of heeding?  What do you think?

Alcott says Jo "was living in bad society, and imaginary though it was, its influence affected her, for she was feeding heart and fancy on dangerous and unsubstantial food" (p. 311).  Do you agree that reading "trashy" books of any sort (gothic romances, bodice-rippers, horror, lurid murder mysteries, etc) will affect you even though you know they're imaginary?  Is there more danger in what you read, or in how much you read of it?  Any other thoughts on this subject?


  1. Haha. Yes, this *is* my favorite chapter (although I realized I've said that of about 20 chapters by this time). About the sensationalist writing-Alcott was writing in an era when that kind of writing was looked down upon, but, as you have pointed out, she clearly enjoyed writing that kind of stuff. Maybe she was just very conflicted?

    And, yes, I do think that books can really affect readers. I think that the main thing that kind of reading does is desensitize-to gore and romance and everything else. And, as you read more and more of these books, your tolerance and your need for an even gorier book (racier bodice-ripper, more terrifying horror) keeps growing.

    1. Perhaps Alcott enjoyed writing her "blood and thunder" books, but she maybe felt kind of guilty about it, and was writing Jo to be a better version of herself?

      I agree about the tolerance thing -- I read a lot of murder mysteries, and after a while, a corpse stops being a dead person whose life has been ended before its time, and starts being just a plot point. Disturbing.

    2. You are so right, CGrace! Bad books just desensitize do bad movies, music, etc. Good to remember...

  2. Oh dear, I am afraid the '94 movie adaption spoilt dear Professor Bhaer for me! But, I found myself starting to enjoy and appreciate him again in this sweet kind, wise and generous he was! And a great influence on Jo too!

    As to the discussion question,
    I would like to add this quote, taken from Beautiful Girlhood written by Mabel Hale...

    ''It is said that a person becomes like his friends. This is a very truthful saying, for association makes a great difference in the lufe of anyone. Especially is this true in the young...''

    There is more to this quote, which was from the chapter on books, but I won't carry on... I think it is important to apply Phil 4:8 to whatever we read, watch, listen, etc.

    Loved this chapter!

    1. Kelly-Anne, really? You didn't like Gabriel Byrne's portrayal? What about it put you off?

      Good quote! My mother-in-law is very fond of Philippians 4:8, though I think it's important to remember that it doesn't say to think *only* about such things -- just that it's good to think about them and not dwell constantly on bad, wrong, unlovely, impure, unadmirable things. We obviously have to think about those other sorts sometimes in order to recognize sin in ourselves -- but we need to be sure to think about good, right, pure, lovely, admirable things too, and focus on them rather than the other sort.

  3. I really like how Professor Bhaer acts both as a friend and a mentor for Jo, subtly (or not so subtly) making her aware of something she should reconsider doing.

    As for sensational stories I believe they can be good entertainment, but if that's the only thing you read it will definitely affect you a lot.

    1. I know, Rose -- isn't Professor Bhaer the best? So kind and helpful, and genuinely concerned for Jo.

      And yup, it's like reading only trite, superficial novels -- they'll rot your brain. But if you read lots of good books, one trite one now and then won't be too bad.

  4. When I was hunting for my violets scene, I thought of Professor Bhaer too! :)


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