“Literary Lessons”, chapter 27 of Little Women, is another gem of a chapter. As I’ve become a lover of short stories over the years, I find appealing Louisa May Alcott’s ability to write each chapter as a short story yet continue to tell an overarching story as the chapters are connected together.
It’s both a pleasant surprise and a little funny that Jo gets her story published after she rips it apart and makes it what everyone else in her family thinks it should be. I was also thrilled when she got payed $300 for it. While that seems a lot of money for Civil War times, I always find it good when an artist-even a fictional one -is able to make a living.
I think, though, that Alcott asks in this chapter how much art should an artist sacrifice for the sake of making a living. And, as with any question like this, she doesn’t give a concrete answer.
For myself, I’m able to see both sides in Jo’s dilemma and I’m glad that Alcott seems to find humor in the situation even if she might have been expressing some frustration in writing this chapter:
“Not being a genius, like Keats, it won’t kill me,” she (Jo) said stoutly; “and I’ve got the joke on my side, after all; for the parts that were taken straight out of real life, are denounced as impossible and absurd, and the scenes that I made up out of my own silly head, are pronounced ‘charmingly natural, tender and true.’ So I’ll comfort myself with that; and, when I’m ready, I’ll up again and take another.”
And again check out Hamlette’s post about this chapter and the subsequent discussion.
As I continue reading Little Women, I’m missing Laurie, the boy next door, while he’s away at college.