Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: 9780593198025 ...

Little Women is a novel written by Louisa May Alcott and first published in 1868.

The novel was an autobiographical family ethics novel set in the American Civil War and based on the life’s trifles of four sisters in an ordinary family in New England in the 19th century. Influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great thinker of the time, the novel emphasizes the concept of personal dignity, independence and self-discipline. The content is simple but exquisite; the structure is simple but profound, full of strong appeal. Little Women is a semi-autobiographical novel with female characters and feminist consciousness.

During the American Civil War, Mr. March went to war as a chaplain, and his four daughters and their mother lived a poor but strong and optimistic life at home. They were poor, but willing to help their neighbors, the Hummels, who needed help more than they did. Women have vanity; they want to get beautiful clothes, eat delicious food, live like a princess. Although full of fantasy, in real life, they use their own efforts to solve the various difficulties in life. The eldest daughter, Meg, is beautiful by nature and full of longing for love; the second daughter, Jo, was independent and determined to be a writer; the third daughter, Beth, is the traditional good girl, weak and lovable. The youngest daughter, Amy, loves painting. The story follows these four women as they grow from girls into little women, recounting their unruly experiences and respective pursuit of different ideals and the processing of finding their true self.

The reason why the four March sisters, who are the true, the good and the beautiful, have such qualities as kindness, diligence, selflessness, tolerance and toughness cannot be separated from Mrs. March’s excellent education. Parents are their children’s first teachers, and there is no doubt that Mrs. March is an excellent teacher. She is generous, ready to help others, not easily angry, and grateful for life. In the eyes of the children, she is not only a good mother, but also their best friend. They liked to confide their worries to Mrs. March, who gave them good advice and help. It is because of Mrs. March’s unique family education that the four sisters became little women loved by everyone. Consequently, the courageous images of women in this book touch the heartstrings of numerous female readers.

-Coreen C.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The reason why I began reading this novel was because of school requirements. Contrary to what I imagined as a typical romance genre, Jane Eyre incorporates elements of horror, fantasy, and even gothic. Jane Eyre actually has a similar background as Cinderella. Her parents died. Their marriage was not supported by her mother’s family because her father’s social status did not match her mother’s. However, even after being disowned by her family and friends, Jane Eyre’s mother did not give up on her family. Jane Eyre was actually raised by her aunt along with her cousins. But because everybody except for a governess treated her so horribly, Jane Eyre decided to leave for a boarding school built just for orphaned girls.

After years of learning and eventually becoming a teacher there, Jane Eyre was bored with her repeating life. Hence, after much effort, she received a recruitment letter from an old mistress at a mansion to be the governess of Adele, an 8-year-old French girl who barely speaks English. And it was from here that Jane Eyre met Mr. Rochester, a very serious and reticent man. Nonetheless, they fell in love shortly and were at the point to be married when Jane Eyre found that Mr. Rochester was married to a crazy woman. She ran away from him and eventually was taken in by a preacher’s family in a faraway village. Jane Eyre was eventually able to unite with Mr. Rochester even after he has gone blind due to a fire. She not only denied the pastor’s wish to marry her and make her a missionary’s wife in India, but she gave birth to a boy with Mr. Rochester.

Although this book has a happy ending, the plot and characters are fickle and unpredictable. I recommend this book to readers who like romance but are tired of the traditional plot and setting.

-Coreen C. 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Sea Wolf by Jack London

The Sea-Wolf - Kindle edition by London, Jack. Literature ...

“The Sea Wolf” is a novel written by American writer Jack London. The novel depicts a heart-wrenching battle and an unforgettable love story on board a sealing-hunting sailing ship called the “Ghost”. The “Wolf” in the novel is not only the name of Captain Larsen, but also the synonym of superman for the author. Through the novel, the author leads the readers into the callousness of the wild life and feels the dark side of the brutal human nature and the brightness of the primitive life. At the same time, it also exposes the disadvantages of the capitalist society and shows the praise for the strong will of the working people and the sympathy for the suffering life.

On the “Ghost” , there is no legal order, no distinction between good and evil, no humanity, let alone the most true and most beautiful human emotions. The life of a seaman was like an ant to him, and whoever he wanted to die had to die. Larsen became the most loyal follower and the most powerful enforcer of Darwinism. The crew he recruited on the sea were only salaried slaves. The seal hunter was his accomplice. The shipwrecked people he rescued became his cheap labor force to fill the gap. He not only swore at the death of his former first mate, but roughly buried him and threw him into the sea. When Harrison, a new sailor, got caught by a high mast, his life was in danger; however, Larsen wouldn’t let anyone go up and help him.

To fill the void, he forced Weyden, whom he had rescued from the ship, to come and work for him. Under the tyrant’s rule and influence, the rest of the crew became rough and brutal. Thomas whet his knife at Weyden all day long, but Weyden, not to be outdone, took his knife to the grindstone all day long, and at last won. Johnson was beaten black and blue for saying something that offended Larson, and Leach, the sailor, swore at Larsen and then beat up the good cook. In Larsen’s world, violence against violence is the law of existence.

Many progressive male intellectuals, including the writer Jack London, supported and championed feminism and expressed their desire for social change;however, traditional ideas are in deep ideological conflict and often bring them back to the desire for traditional power relations. In “The Sea Wolf” we can see a certain disharmony: one comes from the writer’s consciously expressed ideas, the other from the writer’s unconscious desires; one is the principle of gender politics, the other is the pragmatism of social life. The two tendencies interweave together, making the novel a contradictory text.

-Coreen C.

Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemingway

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One rainy day an American couple visiting Italy stayed in their hotel. The husband was reading in bed and the wife was standing by the window looking out at the view when she came across a cat crouched under a dripping green table. In a spirit of compassion, the wife decided to carry the cat back to her room in the rain. But when she got down, the cat was nowhere to be seen. The wife returned to her room in great disappointment. A maid was standing at the door with a large tortoise-shell cat, which the landlord had given to her wife.

The novel comes to a screeching halt, leaving the reader with plenty of room for imagination. Cat in the Rain is one of the few short stories that reflect female consciousness. In this novel, the heroine does not have a name, but the author gives her different titles in different situations. This paper analyzes the desire and awakening of the female subject consciousness of the hostess princess in the patriarchal society from the perspective of appellation. It embodies Hemingway’s simple narrative style and implicit stylistic characteristics.

The novel was written in the early 1920s, when the status of women in the United States was undergoing great changes. The new women redefined their roles in the family and society. They demanded to be equal to men and no longer played the roles played by traditional women who were sheltered and subordinate to men. In fact, the new women are more like men, looking and acting like tomboys: they wear short hair, short skirts, play golf, drive cars, smoke, and drink like men. They are open-minded, enthusiastic and pursue fun. Cat in the Rain fully reflects Hemingway’s profound thinking on the status of women in the family and society under the background of that time.

Cat in the Rain is one of Hemingway’s few works with a female protagonist. In this novel, Hemingway delicately described their inner desires, anguish, needs, words, and deeds from the perspective of women, conveying the subordination of women in the patriarchal society and their strong desire to change the situation. Even with the gradual awakening of their self-consciousness and their struggle against the society, the theme of women in the works is more implicit, profound, and thought-provoking, implying Hemingway’s understanding and attitude towards women.

As a nameless woman in ordinary life, the American wife has no choice and no ability to choose between inner needs (desires) and external temptations during the journey of life, so she can only create an unreal world for herself to seek temporary satisfaction through whispering. The reason why women have a special liking for cats is determined by the specific aesthetic characteristics and perceptual requirements of women under the social conditions at that time. A woman and a cat are naturally linked by her natural maternal instinct and compassion. Cat in the Rain inspired the American wife’s desire to find the lost self, which was the inevitable result of women’s understanding and thinking about their own destiny.

-Coreen C.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Persuasion by Jane Austen: 9780307386854 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

In the book, Austen spends much of her time describing the years of pain that “prudence” brings to the heroine, Anne. She wants young people to look to the future with confidence, without undue worry and caution. When Anne was young, she had to be careful that she did not know what romance was until she was old — the inevitable consequence of a deformed beginning. If in Sense and Sensibility, Austen emphasizes the triumph of reason over emotion and believes that only in this way can people achieve happiness, then in her last novel, Austen spends much of her time describing the years of pain caused by prudence to the heroine.

Persuasion affirms the evolution of characters from cautious to romantic, which undoubtedly reflects the change of the author’s own creative thinking. It was also a challenge to the traditional ideas of the time. While choosing women and women’s lives as the main themes of Persuasion, Austen also succeeded in portraying positive female images. Through the description of these female images, she protested against the distortion and degradation of women in male literature and corrected and subverted the model of male superiority and female inferiority. It is worth noting that Austen’s men, who had always been regarded as noble gentlemen, were often cast as villains and ridiculed, such as Sir Walter, who was conceited but foolish and incompetent, and Mr. Elliot, Anne’s mean-hearted cousin.

In Persuasion, Austen puts men and women on an equal footing in marriage, just as men like the beauty and kindness of women, Anne likes Wentworth not because of his male power and money (Wentworth was not born rich, but rose all the way through his own efforts, representing the emerging class). Although at the end of the novel, Austen still insisted that the heroine was married off according to the stipulations of the patriarchal society, but her marriage was no longer a Cinderella model and no longer depended on the charity of the patriarchy, but had the germination of the women’s liberation movement.

Emma by Jane Austen

Amazon.com: Emma (Dover Thrift Editions) (0800759406487): Jane Austen: Books

Emma’s control of Harriet’s marriage cannot be said to be selfish. She did care and love Harriet, and throughout much of the book she is seen worrying about Harriet’s marriage and drawing inspiration from it herself. Out of an intolerable conceit, she fancied she knew the secrets of every man’s affections. As it turned out, she did it all wrong. But when she learned that Harriet was in love with Knightley, she suddenly discovered that she had always been in love with him. In a sharp turn of events, she and Knightley become husband and wife. She had objected to Harriet’s marrying Martin, and was glad that they were at last united. In Emma’s opinion, Martin was as unfit to be Harriet’s husband as Harriet was unfit to be Knightley’s wife.

Marriage should be matched by family, which was exactly the marriage relationship in the society at that time. The solution to women’s problems (including marriage problems naturally) put forward by Austen was serious, but her works added comedy color. At the beginning of the 19th century, sentimental novels were popular in England, and Austen’s realistic novels gave readers a fresh breath.

In her novel Emma, Austen tells most of the family trifles in ordinary life, and the author creates a female image with intelligence and independent thinking. Emma, the protagonist, demands the equality of men and women in the patriarchal society, and has her own clear views and values on marriage. It also reflects the feminist views of Austen to some extent. With her unique perspective of supporting women, Austen profoundly cut through the reality of the society controlled by men and the situation of women in social life. The author criticizes the unfair phenomenon of male superiority and female inferiority while affirming the social status of women. Therefore, to a certain extent, this novel has far-reaching social practical significance.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

In this novel, through the different treatment of Bennett’s five daughters to life events, Austen shows the different attitudes of the girls from bourgeois families in the villages to marriage and love, thus reflecting the author’s own views on marriage. It is wrong to marry for property, money and status. It would also be foolish to marry without considering these factors. Therefore, she was against marrying for money and against treating marriage as a joke. She emphasized the importance of the ideal marriage, and made the feelings of both the man and the woman the cornerstone of the ideal marriage. Elizabeth, the heroine of the book, was born in a family of small landowners and loved by Darcy, the son of a rich man. Darcy, regardless of family and wealth gap, proposed to her, but was rejected. Elizabeth hated his arrogance.

Darcy’s hubris is actually a reflection of status differences. As long as such pride existed, he and Elizabeth could not have the same thoughts and feelings, and the ideal marriage. Later, Elizabeth observed Darcy’s behavior and a series of actions with her own eyes, especially saw that he had changed his proud and conceited manner in the past, eliminated his misunderstanding and prejudice, and thus concluded a happy marriage with him. Elizabeth’s different attitudes towards Darcy’s two marriage proposals actually reflect women’s pursuit of personality independence and equal rights. This is the progressive significance of the figure of Elizabeth.

From the novel, Elizabeth is intelligent, resourceful, courageous, visionary, has a strong self-esteem, and is good at thinking. Just because of this quality, she has an independent mind on the issue of love, making her and Darcy constitute a happy family. In Pride and Prejudice, Austen also writes about the marriages of Elizabeth’s sisters and girlfriends, which serve as a foil to the heroine’s ideal marriage. For example, although Charlotte and Collins live a comfortable material life after marriage, but there is no love between them. This kind of marriage is actually a social tragedy under the cloak of finery.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Written in 1898, The Awakening follows the main protagonist Edna Pontellier. Edna begins to feel somewhat out of place and out of touch with the morals and customs typically followed by the other women in her community. Her view on femininity and her roles as a mother begin to deviate from the norm, making her feel even more out of place from the other women. The novel follows her journey into discovering herself and her attempts to break free from society as she slowly becomes “Awakened”.

Under the surface of this novel, however, is a discussion of women’s roles in society during the late 1800s / early 1900s. Kate Chopin uses various characters– Edna herself included– throughout this novel to help reflect some of the social norms and attitudes to women’s place in society during the time she wrote the novel. Oftentimes hailed as one of the earliest works and novels on feminism, this book clearly highlighted to anyone that read it that women were being subjugated and that there were plenty of women who were unhappy with the traditional motherly role expected of them. Because of Chopin’s controversial portrayal of this fact, the novel would often be censored. Over time, however, this novel would grow to become recognized for its brilliance and its importance in discussing femininity and women’s roles in society.

-Kobe L.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

It’s said that a mother is one of the most important people in a person’s life. To Maya Angelou, her mother, Vivian Baxter, was no exception. As Maya Angelou said about her mother, “You were a terrible mother of small children, but there has never been anyone greater than you as a mother of a young adult” (197).

Mom and Me and Mom follows Maya Angelou through her journey learning to trust and love herself and the people in her life. After being abandoned and sent to live with her grandmother until her early teenage years, Maya was astounded that she would have to live with her “movie-star” mother. Maya just could not get used to Vivian Baxter; she was so different than her grandmother. It would take years before Maya would call her mother Mom, frequently referring to her as Lady or Mother. Also, though Maya asked for advice from her mother, she took no charity and moved out to live on her own as soon as she was able.

But thanks to her mother’s guidance, Maya led an extraordinary life, raising her son and working so many unique and varying jobs that took her all over the world.

This novel was incredible! Maya Angelou is such an inspiration, with what she made of her life, despite some of the situations she was dealt. My favorite part of the book was how easy to read it was, even when dealing with tough topics. Maya Angelou told it as it was, with a level of grace that was amazing.

I heard about this autobiography through Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads. Emma Watson, in tandem with her work for UN Women, created Our Shared Shelf to promote feminism and equality. Their current recommended novel is The Handmaid’s Tale, which I can’t wait to read next!

– Leila S., 11th grade

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.