A desk in the shape of a white crescent set in front of two windows drowned in the wood. Here, at Orchard House, in the family home that looks like the one in fairy tales, 40 kilometers from Boston, was born the Bildungsroman that revolutionized the female imagination, in the year ’68 of the nineteenth century Louisa May Alcott wrote the story of the four March sisters that the writer of New Yorker Joan Acocella has compared to the Old Testament rather than a novel.
Until today, generation after generation, we went on to the game of identification, which was the favorite of the sisters of Little Women. Not a peregrine game but an identity game, because the March girls are a quartet of essential elements: «Meg, with her graceful elegance of her eldest daughter; Jo, with her flamboyant temper; Beth, as Hestia, protector of all that is earthly; and little Amy, a sensitive stream» according to the effective synthesis of another American writer, Anya Jaremko-Greenwold.
Something still connects us today to those archetypes of throbbing women and vibrant each in its own way and each on the trail of its own vocation in a world, that of the mid-1800s, still rooted in social stereotypes. But the Alcotts (like the Marchs of which they were an almost faithful prototype) were already then a special family, with little money but many ideas and alpha thinker guests: the parents were progressives, abolitionists and supporters of women’s rights; his mother Abigail, an activist and one of the first social workers in Boston, his father Amos, a transcendentalist philosopher. Of the sisters, all trained in self-fulfillment, which was unusual for the time, in the end only the indomitable Louisa will be able to follow the talent and become a writer, just like the Jo of the novel.
He disdained streets rhetorically considered feminine, the Louisa girl, she felt like a male body trapped in her skirts, she couldn’t make friends with a man unless she first beat him in the race, and she couldn’t choose a female friend unless he climbed trees with her. She was looking, still obscurely, for her own way out of the trap: Â «Women have a mind, a soul, a heart. Above all of ambitions and have talent, not just beauty. I’m so tired of people telling me that love is the only thing I can aspire to. I’m fed up, but also so lonely.’ Above all, she was allergic to marriage which for her was not her only way: the dialogue in the latest edition of the saga of the sisters (directed by Greta Gerwig) at the cinema was irresistible, where Jo / Saoirse Ronan confronts Aunt March / Meryl Streep. “I want to make my own way in the world,” says Jo. â€˜No one makes their way alone, least of all a woman. You will have to marry well» replies the aunt. “But you’re not married Aunt March.” “What’s that got to do with it, I’m rich!” Streep closes the comparison a bit peevish.
Time will be with Jo, aka Louisa: prolific writer, Also after Little Women, she will negotiate hard the fees for her work (also a pioneer in this) until she becomes rich, like Aunt March. And Louisa, who unlike her heroine Jo never married, will finance the dreams of her sisters and other women with her work.
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