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    Marmee’s Plans

    January 6, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    Yesterday at lunch, I read a bit of Little Women aloud to the children. I think that any woman who enjoyed this book as a girl should read it again as a mother. I hardly noticed Marmee during my many youthful readings of the book. She didn’t interest me except insofar as her actions advanced the plot concerning the girls and the Laurence boy, who were far more interesting to me.

    But Marmee is, in many ways, an ideal mother, and I find myself inspired to greater excellence in mothering due to reading about her.

    In the chapter Meg Goes to Vanity Fair, Meg has spent some time in the most worldly environment she has ever known. She made a bit of a fool of herself, dressing in a way that drew attention, flirting, drinking champagne {basically acting like me in high school, except I skipped the champagne}, and when she returns home she confesses her sins to her mother.

    While out “in the world,” someone insinuated in Meg’s hearing that Marmee had “plans” for her girls, and one of those plans was supposed to be marrying one of them off to their rich neighbor. The way in which this was presented called into question Marmee’s goodwill. Was Marmee being kind to the neighbors only for the sake of her own family’s gain?

    So, Marmee puts Meg’s conscience at ease, apologizes for allowing her to go away in the first place, and answers Meg’s questions {in the presence of daughter Jo as well}:

    “Mother, do you have ‘plans,’ as Mrs. Moffat said?” asked Meg bashfully.

    “Yes, my dear, I have a great many; all mothers do, but mine differ somewhat from Mrs. Moffat’s, I suspect. I will tell you some of them, for the time has come when a word may set this romantic little head and heart of yours right, on a very serious subject. You are young, Meg, but not too young to understand me; and mothers’ lips are the fittest to speak of such things to girls like you. Jo, your turn will come in time, perhaps, so listen to my ‘plans,’ and help me carry them out, if they are good.”

    [snip]

    “I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman; and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience. It is natural to think of it, Meg; right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for it; so that, when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy. My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world–marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing–and, when well used, a noble thing–but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect or peace.”

    “Poor girls don’t stand a chance, Belle says, unless they put themselves forward,” sighed Meg.

    “Then we’ll be old maids,” said Jo stoutly.

    “Right, Jo; better be happy old maids than unhappy wives or unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands,” said Mrs. March decidedly. “Don’t be troubled, Meg; poverty seldom daunts a sincere lover. Some of the best and most honored women I know were poor girls, but so loveworthy that they were not allowed to be old maids. Leave these things to time; make this home happy, so that you may be fit for homes of your own, if they are offered to you, and contented here if they are not. One thing remember, my girls: mother is always ready to be your confidante, father to be your friend; and both of us trust and hope that our daughters, whether married or single, will be the pride and comfort of our lives.”

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    5 Comments

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts January 8, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Emily, thanks for the encouragement! I do love words, that is true. I really think part of it is simply my limited exposure through most of my life. We won’t stop though, and I hope someday I do swoon. 🙂

  • Reply Emily January 8, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Keep plugging away, Brandy. You’re a gifted writer so you must love words, right? Enjoying a poem is somewhat like immersing oneself in a beautiful painting or piece of music. You don’t need to pick it apart to be captivated. Like chocolate (lol), savor the flavor of each word and the whole effect of them melded together in a harmony of sensations. Ha, I sound like a chewing gum commercial. I hope someday a poem makes you just sit back and swoon! 🙂

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts January 8, 2010 at 12:08 am

    It really is a wonderful book. I know I didn’t fully appreciate it in my youth, but I suppose that is what make a Good Book: worth reading in childhood, and again in adulthood!

    By the way, Emily: I meant to say this before, but I wish that poetry was like chocolate for my family the way it is for you! I learned to love epic poetry when I was younger, but that was about it. It was a battle for me to begin, but I find that I appreciate it more and more as we go on. I think my problem is that I was generally reading bad poetry. I love Ambleside’s suggestions thus far!

  • Reply Emily January 7, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Love it! Great words of wisdom from a work of fiction. Makes me wonder what Louisa May Alcott’s mother was like. I, too, identified with the girls in the story when I was younger – Jo, especially. It’s been quite some time since I read Little Women, but you’re inspiring me here. This time I get to share it with Anna Rose! Can’t wait for the discussions that will follow. 🙂

  • Reply Rahime January 7, 2010 at 12:15 am

    This is a beautiful selection. I particularly love: “so listen to my ‘plans,’ and help me carry them out, if they are good.” and “Money is a needful and precious thing–and, when well used, a noble thing–but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect or peace.”

    Wow, it looks like it’s been too long since I’ve read this one…time to pick it up again.

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