Monday, February 9, 2015

“Little” Women? Were they small in size or what? Discussion Questions {High School Literature Curriculum Series}

{If you’re new here, you may want to start with my post Creating a High School Literature Curriculum ~ Post by Post and follow it up with Why Study the Classics of Literature? Welcome!}

One of the great things about discussing literature is how it offers us the opportunity to think through right and wrong and examine what we might do in any given situation. To this end, I’ve left these questions rather open-ended, allowing you the opportunity to come to your own conclusions.

  1. The word “little” means small in size or amount, but in our current culture, when used as an adjective, it often carries an insinuation of a condescending attitude or is used as an adjective of deprecation. This is not Mr. March’s implication, though, when he calls his daughters “little women.” What is his meaning?
  2. Louisa May Alcott’s family was friends with many writers in the area, including Ralph Waldo Emerson. Can you see any of Emerson’s influence in her story of Little Women? “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  3. The March family rarely speaks outright about their Christian faith, yet it is evident throughout the story. How?
  4. At one point in the story, Amy is severely punished at school, and Mrs. March withdraws her to complete her studies at home. Marmee, though, also chides her. “You are getting to be rather conceited, my dear, and it is quite time to set about correcting it. You have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long, and the great charm of all power is modesty.” What do you think? How would Marmee define modesty? Is Marmee right? What does the Bible say about conceit?
  5. My daughter thinks the book would have been better if there had been dragons in it. In other words, she wanted more action. What do you think?
  6. Why does Aunt Carrol ask Amy and not Jo to go abroad with her? Is that right? Is it fair?
  7. Does Jo appeal to you as the main character? Can you relate to her problems, nearly 150 years later?
  8. Does anything in this book appeal to male readers? What? If you are a male reader, was it difficult to lose yourself in the story? How?

One last bonus question for the mothers reading along J ~

“’Mothers have need of sharp eyes and discreet tongues when they have girls to manage.’” ~ Marmee

Agree or disagree? Why?

My 15yo and I have are so enjoying reading the same book together, discussing peer pressure, the place of fashion in our lives, and the character of people who have become quite real to us. J

We’re so glad you’re here, and we pray that the Lord uses this study of Little Women however it pleases him.

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  1. I've never read the book, but in the movie version with Winona Ryder as Jo she tells Professor Baer that the March family are Transcendentalists. I'm curious if that detail is in the book? Is a Transcendentalist a Christian?

    1. The word itself is not in the book, although there are some scholars who see transcendentalism in the story. From what little I know of transcendentalism, I don't see it in the March family. Here is a link to Wikipedia that may explain it more, although take Wikipedia with a grain of salt. :-)

      "Among the transcendentalists' core beliefs was the inherent goodness of both people and nature. They believe that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupt the purity of the individual. They have faith that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. It is only from such real individuals that true community could be formed." ~ Wikipedia

      It seems to me that many Transcendentalists believed they were Christians, but what their spiritual state was, I cannot say. Based on the statement above, I would say that transcendentalism is still alive and well in the United States. Great question!

  2. These will be fun to ask my girls. I'm sorry to say, I have not read Little Women, but my older daughters love Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys...

  3. Reading aloud with my kids is one of the sweet joys I miss now they are in college. What great discussion points on Little Women.

  4. You have an edition with nicer illustrations than my copy! Can you give me an ISBN?

    1. Katie, I'm so sorry, but mine was a part of a children's boxed set that I received for Christmas over thirty years ago. I doubt they sell it now, but maybe Ebay? :-)


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