Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 4 Reasons Why I Don’t Like Little Women

I have a confession to make; I read Little Women, and I really didn't like it.  Here are some reasons why.

spoiler alert

1. It’s incredibly sappy

Little Women is a world inhabited by people who are good, but deeply regret all of their flaws and spend the book trying to repair them.  In short, they are perfect daughters, sons, mothers and fathers whose example we are supposed to follow.

2.    It can be really preachy

When I express my opinion on the sappy dialogue and overly-angelic characters in Little Women, most fans of the book respond with

“But it’s a didactic novel-it’s meant to be like that”

However, you do not need to have unrealistic characters or bad dialogue to promote a moral message.  In fact, I would argue that the opposite is true.  By creating unrealistic characters and plot lines in order to fit in with the message you are trying to send, you make the reader aware of the fact that the world of the novel has been created solely to promote this message.  This means that the reader isn’t drawn into the world of the book to the same extent, because they realise that it is artificially constructed.

3.  It can get uncomfortably close to sexism

There are way to many incidents that are pretty sexist in this novel; like when their father finally returns, he doesn’t praise Jo for publishing her writing, or any of the other brave, resourceful and intelligent things she does, but for the fact that her clothes look neater.  The problem is that these incidents pass without any comment.  Now, there are 3 potential counter-arguments to this, but they all seem a bit limp.
1. “Alcott was a feminist; she wrote the book for the money"

If that's so, then why is it regarded as a great work of literature, as opposed to someone just trying to earn a living (not that there is anything wrong with earning a living, but generally speaking books written in order to make money are not seen as literature)

2. "Little Women attempts to portray the reality of the time.  The book is accurately portraying a society that was sexist."

It is absolutely possible to write a book with strong female characters who get happy endings and to accurately portray society at that time (see Jane Austen, writing decades before Alcott)

3. "The book is meant to portray society without commenting on it, and therefore, Alcott doesn't comment on issues of gender".

This is just untrue.  Alcott comments on many different aspects of society, including the Civil War, in which case, why does she avoid mentioning gender issues?

4.  Alcott’s attitude towards her fans

Why did Amy marry Laurie?
Was it because they had a deep and powerful emotional connection?
Was it an important metaphor?

No.  It was because so many people wanted Jo and Laurie to get married, that Alcott decided to pair off Amy and Laurie just to annoy them.

Now, I don’t think that writers should pander to their audiences, but at the same time, isn’t it a bit harsh to spite your fans for enjoying your book and expressing their opinions on it?