I’ll admit that I have never before thought much of Meg as a character. I liked her well enough, but compared to Jo, and later Amy, she didn't strike me as very interesting. However, upon this rereading I suddenly realized that there is a lot more to her than what I thought at first, and now I find her quite a fascinating character.
When you look at Meg, she is everything a young, proper woman of this time period ought to be. She is motherly to her younger sisters, she dreams of romance but is almost unrealistically innocent and proper when it comes to courtship, and her biggest dreams are to have beautiful things and luxuries.
But apart from that, she is a character who has a lot difficulties while learning to be content with her situation in life, and her journey towards that goal and how she accomplishes it is what I in particular like about her.
Meg's struggles are very well summarized in the following:
"She was fond of luxury, and her chief trouble was poverty. She found it harder to bear than the others, because she could remember a time when home was beautiful, life full of ease and pleasure, and want of any kind unknown. She tried not to be envious or discontented, but it was very natural that the young girl should long for pretty things, gay friends, accomplishments, and a happy life. At the Kings she daily saw all she wanted, for the children's older sisters were just out, and Meg caught frequent glimpses of dainty ball-dresses and bouquets, heard lively gossip about theatres, concerts, sleighing parties, and merry-making of all kinds, and saw money lavished on trifles which would have been so precious to her. Poor Meg seldom complained, but a sense of injustice made her feel bitter toward every one sometimes, for she had not yet learned to know how rich she was in blessings which alone can make life happy."
In a time where your class very much defined your identity and your expectations from life, it must have been really hard on Meg to suddenly readjust her entire way of thinking when her family lost their fortune. To suddenly find many of her dreams out of reach, and yet be surrounded by acquaintances who had all the luxuries she dreamed of, must have been almost like being stuck in the middle between two classes, and I think that is one of the main reasons she has such a hard time being content with her situation.
Though she quickly learns that being rich doesn't necessarily means being happy, it isn't until great hardships are thrown upon the family that she realizes how rich she is "in love, protection, peace and health, the real blessings of life." After Meg has had that realization, it seems she has finally found the key to being happy with her situation, and when we see her 3 years later on the brink of entering her new life it is obvious she has grown a lot in that aspect.
"Somehow envy and discontent soon vanished when she thought of all the patient love John had put into the little home awaiting her, and when they sat together in the twilight, talking over their small plans, the future always grew so beautiful and bright that she forgot Sallie's splendour, and felt herself the richest, happiest girl in Christendom."Even though contentment is something she keeps fighting with throughout the book, the little glimpses into her married life shows us how she keeps growing.
Many readers today may think that Meg got the least exciting story of the sisters, and though it is true she never got to travel much and see the world, that doesn't mean she didn't get any adventures. She got to experience the great adventure that is marriage and later motherhood, things that most girls dreamed of at that time.
But most importantly, she is a fine example to show that when you are rich in the things of true value, you can be truly happy and content with a simple life.
(Hamlette's Note: Thanks for this lovely character sketch, Rose! Meg is easy to overlook, and you've shown us some excellent reasons why she deserves our attention.)