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A View Of Women In The Writings Of Louisa May Alcott.

2221 words - 9 pages

Born in 1832 to Bronson and Abba Alcott, Louisa May Alcott constantly struggled with the anger and individualistic, unladylike spirit that came naturally to her. Since Louisa, like her mother, was born dark-haired and "willful," her father viewed her as a challenge, sometimes going so far as to call her the "Possessed One" "pathetic," and "bound in chains . . . which she could not break"(Stern, Biography, p. 78). He thought that teaching Louisa to suppress her natural inclinations for self-expression and difference in favor of what he perceived as feminine habits was part of his job in life, and Louisa seemed to see her life as one of struggle between her own will and submission to her father's. Bronson's belief in Louisa's demonic nature, and the doubts and pain that belief caused Louisa, can be found in her writings. By writing about female characters that were expected to live up to the same expectations placed on her by Bronson, Alcott expressed her hatred of the female "ideal." In this paper I have analyzed Alcott's view of woman in three of her acclaimed works: Little Women, "A Whisperer in the Dark," and Behind A Mask.Due to strong Protestant influences, nineteenth century American life stressed the importance of hard work, social propriety, and religious piety. With these social norms came rigid views of gender roles. Women especially were limited as to what their status was in this society (Stern, Biography, p. 76). Louisa May Alcott's novel, Little Women, tries to illustrate a favorable portrait of the upstanding lives that four young girls and their mother lead in their allotted roles in this patriarchal culture. The book becomes almost an instructional of how young ladies should act in order to gain respect, find husbands, and then experience happiness. In Little Women, one of the March girls, Jo, is the most resistant to the fetters of this social dogma. At a very young age, Jo dislikes the constraints put on her by being a female; "I can't get over my disappointment at not being a boy...I can only stay at home and knit like a pokey old woman" (Alcott, Women, p. 54).Instead of relying on a man for her adult life, Jo desperately wants to be independent. In theory this should be a worthy goal for any person, but as the novel continues she gives up on this dream for the shackles of married life. From early on the ideas and views of women that Jo tries in earnest to rebel against are instilled in her mind and displayed in her everyday life. Much like Alcott herself, Jo is characterized as a talented writer. Her great talent, however, is greatly unappreciated in this time where woman are restricted to certain standards. Jo's family refers to her writings as "her little book." The implication seems to be that "little" women can only produce "little" books, and even when Jo is older she is quick to dismiss her writing as "rubbish"(Cutter, Unruly, p. 46). Alcott is indicating here that the art of women is tolerated only to the extent that it...

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