Sunday, May 3, 2015

Little Women Read-Along: Literary Lessons (Ch. 27)

In which Jo discovers she has a talent for writing sensational fiction and can earn pretty hefty chunks of money with it.  Hurrah for Jo!  She works up the courage to submit a novel for publication, after pretty thoroughly "ruining" it by changing it to suit everyone, which amuses me.  But then she gets it published anyway, which I find a bit convenient or over-happy or something.  Maybe I'm just being curmudgeonly today, but after all the time Alcott spends discussing how Jo messes up the novel, and then it sells anyway?  I"m happy for Jo, but kind of annoyed with Alcott, I guess.

I do love the description of Jo's writing cap, though, don't you?  And how people could tell by what was going on with it whether or not she could be disturbed -- so amusing!


Favorite Lines:

...when the writing fit came on, she gave herself up to it with entire abandon, and led a blissful life, unconscious of want, care, or bad weather, while she sat safe and happy in an imaginary world, full of friends almost as real and dear to her as any in the flesh (p. 238).

Possible Discussion Questions:

What literary lessons do you think Jo has learned?


We know Alcott made some good money by writing sensational literature too.  Do you think her father reacted like Mr. March, saying she could do better?  Or does that feel more like Alcott looking back at her younger self and shaking her head?

14 comments:

  1. Alcott might be expressing frustration that the novel she WANTS to write would never sell, so instead she has to write happy stories with happy endings where people get happily married and books sell happily even when they are butchered by public opinion. Just a thought. :)

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    1. Perhaps. Alcott did make pretty good money writing sensational fiction before she wrote Little Women, but nothing like what she got from it and her other stories for children.

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  2. Maybe one lesson that Jo learned was that sometimes you have to give up how you want to do something in order to sell. I'm learning this with music: the kind of music I like to play isn't the kind most people like to listen too :( And yeah, if she did mess the novel up as bad as it sounds like she did, it shouldn't have sold... Also, Alcott mentions that Mr. March had let something ripen for 30 years. Did he write a book?

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    1. Ashley, I think that Mr. March was letting his philosophy ripen for 30 years, and finally after the war he found people who valued his ideas.

      It's always a problem isn't it? Finding something you love to do, but figuring out how to find an audience for it too.

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  3. It's interesting to compare Jo's attitude toward her writing with Amy's attitude to art in the last chapter—I get the impression that Amy wants to create something great for art's sake, whereas Jo seems to talk more about the money and fame than the actual books/stories themselves.

    The "vortex" feeling is a familiar one...though I doubt many writers have families who are as willing to let them simply vanish for a few weeks as the Marches seem to be! And the last part of the chapter, with all the conflicting advice and reviews, is painfully amusing...painful because it feels so real. I'd be willing to bet Alcott experienced something similar in her own writing career.

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    1. Elisabeth, I think you're right -- Jo isn't necessarily attached to her art form as much as to the results it brings.

      Yes, that final part felt so familiar to me too! I was in a writing group in college, and it was sometimes comical how one person would dislike an aspect that another insisted was awesome, etc.

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  4. I am always so conflicted over this chapter. The Marches needed that money, and yet the reader is clearly supposed to feel disappointment and regret that she didn't write the "right" kind of book.

    I think that writing this chapter might have been kind of therapeutic for Alcott…a way to go over something that she viewed as a big mistake, a way for her to move past her early fiction writing days. (BTW, I read one of her early sensational novels and it was pretty poorly written, I am sad to say. But maybe part of it was that it just hadn't stood the test of time the way her well-known fiction has.)

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    1. CGrace, I'm sure this was pretty therapeutic, if only becuase from what I've read, Alcott greatly enjoyed writing her sensational fiction, but was less than enthusiastic about all the children's fiction she ended up writing because that was what sells. So I feel like she's kind of reversed the kind of stories for Jo, but is keeping the feeling the same -- that she wrote books like "Little Women" because it was what the public wanted and what gave her lots of money, not because her heart was in it.

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  5. I loved the description of Jo's writing moods, and the whole language of the writing cap - so funny.
    I agree it was a bit odd that Jo still managed to get her book published even though she nearly ruined it. But maybe that is just to illustrate that her original book would have been a literary classic or something like that. Or maybe she cut out the parts that people in general wouldn't find amusing, but scholars would have analysed for years to come? I don't know - but I can truly admire a writer who actually gets to see some of hre work published.

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    1. Rose, yes -- it's surprising that she still gets it published, but maybe that's the point? That you can get published even when you do everything "wrong." Or that what gets published is not always as good as it could be. Hmm.

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  6. Oh, I loved this quote... ''Wealth is certainly a most desirable thing, but poverty has its sunnyside, and one of the sweet uses of adversity is the genuine satisfaction which comes from hearty work of head or hand; and to the inspiration of necessity we owe half the wise, beautiful, and useful blessings of the world.''. True words!

    It is so good to discuss this chapter, as I must admit, I got a bit lost in it! Interesting that Jo did get her book published in the end and I am truly glad for her!

    Her sensational stories sound a little too 'light' with no good morals or anything, so I feel that she really did just write for fame and fortune, unlike Amy...

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    1. Excellent quote! And so true. And comforting to those of us blessed with more work than wealth!

      Yes, I agree she was writing more for just the results, not caring about the writing itself.

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  7. And I LOVE her writing cap...I really enjoy getting a closer look at characters through their unusual habits! And her cap was classic!

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    1. I know! That cap amuses me to no end :-D

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