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Lecture 3

ENGB35H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Puritans, Chisel

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Natalie Rose

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ENGB35 – Lecture 3 – Little Women discussion
Little Women:
Not straightforward Puritan literature:
o“Sin” “social”
oC.f. etymology of “moral”: classical Latin moralis concerned with
ethics, morals
Beth is “not… an angel but a very human-like little girl”
Alcott: “ I do it well because it pays well”
o“Never liked girls, or knew many, except my sisters, but our queer
plays and experiences might prove interesting though I doubt it”
Book deeply split between fantasies of rebellion and a proper moral message
and a proper definition of womanhood
3 ways the novel is read:
oStraightforward moral text, reinforces conventional (conservative)
social construction of femininity
oRadical text for its time
oRadical text because problematizes social constructions of gender to
such an extent that it’s actually quite radical
Beginning of a new era
“Overt” and “covert” messages
Girl’s fiction tend to end more conservatory
What does the title suggest about childhood and gender?
Transition from girls womanhood
Practicing how to become a proper woman
E.g. Ch.5: When Jo meets Laurie
oThe author still sets up Jo as a child who doesn’t want to grow up and
become a woman and when Meg teases Jo about Laurie, Mrs. March
reminded them children should remain children as long as possible
There was a saying : “You may chisel a boy into shape… But you cannot
hammer a girl into anything. She grows as a flower does” (John Ruskin,
Sesame and Lilies, 1865)
To become a “little women” isn’t an easy thing to accomplish, according to the
Mr. March’s letter:
Questions to consider:
oWhat model of little womanhood is this?
oWhy does Mr. March refer to the girls as “little women”?
Mr. March: Spokesperson of the puritan’s view of this novel
Religious puritan model
Male/father ideal is present
My view of the second question above: The term/idea of
“little women” shows how the girls still hasn’t conquer their
burdens and they complain about small things all the time,
depicts how the girls are still immature and needs to learn to
accept what they have and conquer their burdens in order to
become what is known as a proper woman to the society back
Classmate’s view of the first question above:
Alcott’s intention acknowledging the struggle
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