Books, Lessons In Literature

5 Things Meg March Taught Me About Being a Wife & Mother {from author Louisa May Alcott}

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Honestly speaking…I don’t like Meg. I love Alcott’s Little Women. But I’ve always had a fondness for Jo. She seems more likeable for her blunders and awkwardness. Meg is kindof…prim, proud and careful about everything. Perhaps being the eldest such things were ingrained in her mind.

But even though Meg is not my favorite I was in for a shock when I began part 2. When I read chapters 28 and 38 I thought, “My goodness. Our stories are remarkably alike.”

Join me as I thumbed through these much loved pages to find 5 common, yet unique pieces of advice that Louisa May Alcott has hidden within this most beloved novel.

5 Things Meg (March) Brooke Taught Me About Being a Wife and Mother

 

Cook What They Love

At the beginning of her marriage, Meg struggled with cooking. She made too much, or made too little and didn’t know quite what to make.

“She was too tired, sometimes even to smile, John grew dyspeptic after a course of dainty dishes and ungratefully demanded plain fare.”

Little Women, Chapter 28

It took Meg awhile to find what worked for her family and how much was just enough. She had to budget wisely.

 

On Saying “I’m sorry”.

One of my most favorite parts of Little Women is when Meg decides to can currants. She attempts to make currant jelly (with currants harvested from her own garden no less!) with disastrous results.

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Meg is distraught. And even more so when her husband comes home from work with a friend to stay to supper! Everything is a mess. Meg can’t understand why her husband John could think she could make supper in her sorry state. John doesn’t understand why his wife can’t just put forth a bit of effort and make them a small supper.

And then he appears to laugh at Meg for getting caught up in her failed jelly. This proves more than she can take and she declines to make supper.

Long story short, she remembers her mother’s words of advice and everything is made right when she makes up her mind that

“(She) will be the first to say, ‘Forgive me, John’.”

 

How To Live Within Your Means

It was Meg’s job to “keep the books”. She dutifully kept track of every penny she spent. Meg could be frugal when she had mind to be. But sometimes it got to her.

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Meg was often in the company of Sallie Moffat. She was a good friend but a rich one. Meg on the other hand was not rich and felt it. She was not envious but merely hated being pitied.

Because of this she bought “trifles” here and there until the trifles increased to the point of a length of not-so-trifling silk fabric.

It was $50 then. Hard to figure what that translates to today with inflation and whatnot. But apparently it was worth as much as a man’s new winter coat.

Because that’s exactly what her husband denied himself because of Meg’s frivolous purchase. In the end, Meg sets all things right. Sells the silk to Sallie, buys her man his coat. Peace restored and wisdom gleaned.

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The Babies and the Beloved

The question of affection is a common issue. One I have struggled with many a time. It can be so hard making sure everyone gets your time, your love.

Meg found this out too.

She made her twins, Demi and Daisy, her world. She didn’t cook (they hired an Irish lady for that) and she was always in the nursery. When the babies stopped teething, stopped needing her so much, then she turned to her husband.

But he was not there. He was at a friend’s house. An environment that was welcoming, friendly and most importantly not lonely.

John had not given up on his wife, he had waited 6 months for things to change. But because of Meg’s decision be a solo parent, she and John were drifting apart.

The solution? With Marmee’s advice, Meg was determined to 1) ask for her husband’s help with the kids 2) make time for John in the evenings and chat about his interests and 3) start going out more with John on dates!

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On Taking Care of Yourself & Accepting Help

How easy it is to not do these things. And how quickly it can destroy you. Self-care and the occasional help are vitally important as a mother. All people need this. We are not solo beings but creatures who need people. Need community, support and advice. We need each other.

Meg here relies a lot on her mother. She gives advice and is a seemingly bottomless pit of motherly wisdom. She reminds Meg that Hannah is ready and waiting to be a help with the kids.

I want to say, “Duh Meg of course you need help girl! You’ve got twin babies!” But I know it takes a lot of reminders for me to get it too.

Pockets of alone time, girl time, excercise time even grocery shopping time (haha); these are all times that are necessary for a good mom to become a healthier, stronger and even better one.

 

Conclusion

Meg is a good girl, really. She’s smart and gentle and giving. She still seems a bit too perfect to me but I loved looking at all the issues we have in common. I wonder if Alcott knew that 149 years later, people would still identify with and greatly adore her little book?

~Rachel

Books, Lessons In Literature

Friendship (Is Greater Than) Politics

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Earlier this year I discovered something unexpected about a beloved book series. I was reading Anne of Avonlea and came across an interesting passage. Given certain current events that occurred at the time, my mind was primed to catch all things political. And so I read…

“Diana’s father was a Liberal, for which reason she and Anne never discussed politics. Green Gables folk had always been Conservatives.”

(Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 18)

But are they the only ones? I picked apart the series to find out. Lets start in the beginning.

Marilla and Mrs. Rachel Lynde

How about these two? Marilla and Mrs. Rachel were two very unique individuals who proved to be opposites in more than a few ways.

In Anne of Green Gables, it states that it was likely because (and in spite of) these differences that their friendship remained through the years.

In chapter 18, they attend a political meeting to see the Premier (political leader running for office). Mrs. Lynde attends purely because she was “a red-hot politician” and deemed her presence to be necessary. She went with her Conservative friend, (Marilla) even though the Premier was decidedly not on her “side”.

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But through everything, they supported each other. Death of family, loss of health, money troubles…even raising two rambunctious (ok only one was squirrelly) twins together. Friendship endures through the ages. Through life’s trials. Marilla and Mrs. Rachel were so different to start with that I can almost see them laughing and waving their hands in dismissal at the idea of politics.

Anne and Diana

Anne and Diana have one of the most iconic friendships of all time. I mean I close my eyes and I see all the crazy things they went through. All the fun and laughs. Chasing after (what they thought was) Anne’s Jersey cow, Diana getting drunk from currant wine (decidedly not cordial), jumping on Miss Josephine Barry in the spare room (by mistake of course). They also had a few times when they didn’t quite see eye-to-eye.

One such event occurs in Anne of Avonlea, chapter 18. The girls are on a trip to buy a willow-ware platter from the Copp girls, who live on Tory Road in Spencervale. On their journey, Anne asks how the Tory Road got its name. Diana gives an explanation and a jab at the Tory (Conservative) government. But Anne makes no reply. And they continue on as they always had. And Anne gets stuck in a duck house roof. And Diana stays faithfully by her side. And they get the willow-platter! And no more mention is made of politics for Anne and Diana. Life goes on.

We are more than our political views.

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Anne and Gilbert

Another duo worth noting is Anne and Gilbert. But they got married! Yes. And once they had opposing views. In a heart-to-heart talk with Matthew, Anne says she is glad that she and Matthew are Conservatives “because Gil-because some of the boys in school are Grits.” However, later in Anne’s House of Dreams, chapter 35, Gilbert is described as “an ardent Conservative”. So did he change for love? Was it a passing fancy? A means to raise Queen Anne’s ire? Perhaps we will never know 🙂 Are similar views a necessity in marriage?

More Characters

How about some of the others from Anne’s House of Dreams? Captain Jim, Cornelia and the newly married Blythes were thick as thieves and yet did not have everything in common. Captain Jim=Liberal. Cornelia=Conservative. As were the Blythes. And still they did not let their political mindset get in the way of friendship.

Many a late-night chat and playful banter did these four have. There were jokes and there was teasing. And yet their friendship was marked by a distinct absence of discord. In this day and age, I find that profound.

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Lastly, we have the unlikely couple which is Cornelia Bryant and Marshall Elliot. Cornelia is definitely Conservative. Mr. Elliot, on the other hand was so strongly Liberal that he refused to shave or cut his hair for 18 years, when his political party came back into power. I’m sure he was a sight and I guess a girl has her pride!

Cornelia’s character makes me laugh. I find it so funny that a good haircut was all that kept her from marrying Mr. Marshall Elliot. I wonder if their political differences added stress or simply a welcome contrast to their lives?

Conclusion

Reading these passages really made me think. Here in the U.S. things have not been smooth sailing on the political front. But the harsh words, the protests…the spite. Is it necessary? What happened to polite disagreement? To friendly banter? To respect?

I wish so much that we had more of that. But it starts with one. It starts with me. I have to be willing to mix with those who don’t see things as I do. To be kind. And yes even seek out friendship from those from other political groups. Food for thought.

What do you think of this approach to politics?

~Rachel