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christmas won’t be christmas without any presents

Jo, lying down on the rug, murmured that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas with no presents.

“It is terrible to be poor!” Meg sighed as she looked at her old dress.

With a sore sniff, Amy said, “I don’t believe it’s fair to some girls having lots of pretty stuff, and other girls nothing at all.”

Beth said, contentedly, from her corner: “We’ve Got Father and Mother. And each Other.”

Season’s reading, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

These girls, however, are reading an improving book and quickly get out of their misery and spend their hard-earned dollars each on Marmee. Christmas ends up being a joyous time. There is lots of laughter, kissing, and explaining.

We follow the Marches throughout the year. They make friends with their next-door neighbor, the Laurence boys, who get into scrapes. We are also shocked to learn that some “Englishers” cheat at croquet. Based loosely on John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progression, the girls also learn more about themselves and how they can overcome them. From Meg’s discovery money does NOT bring happiness to Jo’s struggle to control her temper,

It may sound sickeningly pious, and Marines’ little homilies can be challenging to swallow. But Jo has a beautiful way of saving the story from being lost in sentimentality.

Alcott herself was the second of four daughters, a feminist, and abolitionist, and it’s said that the character of the headstrong bookworm is semi-autobiographical. Jo is the most loved and fully realized Marches. She’s funny, impetuous. And imaginative. (She’s the brain behind the Pickwick Club secret society of sisters inspired by Dickens; she writes trashy stories for the local newspaper.) But she is most vocal against the conventions which restricted women in mid-19th-century America.

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