Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Real Life Writing: Little Women

"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

"We've got Father and Mother and each other," said Beth contentedly, from her little corner.

Louisa May Alcott wrote many books, stories and even poems. Yet she is best loved for her story, LITTLE WOMEN about the March sisters. This book and its sequels were taken in part from her life and her three sisters: Anna, who is depicted as Meg, Elizabeth as Beth, and May as Amy. While I didn't take the time to do three-times-verified research (see some links below), here are some things from her real life that are in the books.
-The Alcotts' house, The Orchard House in Concord, pictured here, was used as the setting for the LITTLE WOMEN books.

- Louisa was called a tomboy, just like her literary counterpart, Jo.  "No boy could be my friend till I had beaten him in a race," she claimed, "and no girl if she refused to climb trees, leap fences ..."

-Young Louisa wrote melodramatic plays for her and her sisters to act out, an activity the March girls also enjoyed.

- The poverty and hard times of the Alcott sisters with their resulting willingness to work was mirrored by the March sisters; 

-It is said that Louisa's older sister Anna's marriage to John Bridge Patt is described exactly as Meg's wedding. 

- Louisa's younger sister Elizabeth contracted scarlet fever and was weak for several years before her death. I remember reading Beth's death scene over twice, unable to believe that it had happened, then crying at the thought of losing one of my sisters. Louisa's true emotions made the scene very real.
- Not much is known about Louisa's friend, Ladislas Wisniewski or "Laddie," but it is thought that the character of Laurie comes from him. Like Jo, Louisa did not marry her Laddie. Yet unlike Jo who went on to marry Professer Bhaer, she remained unmarried.

Are there characters waiting for you to discover in your own family? Or your childhood experiences?



  1. The turning point is when Jo is told to write what she knows. It mirrors exactly what Louisa did, and the result is a timeless, touching, heartwarming story.

  2. Absolutely! It's interesting that in the book, it was her purely fictional future husband, while in real life, Louisa was asked to write a story for girls by her publisher. I think someday I'll write about me and my seven sisters, but then I'm not sure anyone would believe it...