An Old-Fashioned Girl = 31 down, 69 to go

28 Mar

An Old-Fashioned Girl
Louisa May Alcott
360 pages

One of my favorite classicbooks is Little Women, so since I’m not permitted to reread any stories during my year-long challenge, I decided to seek out another book by Louisa May Alcott.

An Old-Fashioned Girl originally began as a short six-chapter book where the main character, 14-year-old Polly, spends time living with her friend Fanny and her family, the Shaws, a wealthy city family. Polly is exposed to a more fashionable, expensive lifestyle much in contrast to her more modest, moral-focused, middle-class country upbringing.

The author added to the original chapters by picking up the story six years later with Polly returning to the city. She secures rooms for herself and establishes herself as music teacher. Similar to her original stay with the Shaws, as an adult, she battles being happy with the life she has built for herself with the contrast of the privileges, clothes and parties of the Shaws.

But her new life in the city shows her glimpses of situations that remind her to be grateful for what she has.

She had heard of poverty and suffering, in the vague, far-off way, which is all that many girls, safe in happy homes, ever know of it; but now she had seen it, in a shape which she could feel and understand, and life grew more earnest to her from the minute. So much to do in the great, busy world, and she had done so little…Polly asked for the strength of an upright soul, the beauty of a tender heart, the power to make her life a sweet and stirring song, helpful while it lasted, remembered when it died.

When the Shaw family members find themselves faced with bankruptcy, selling their family home and downsizing their belongings and lifestyle, Polly is the balancing force that reminds the family that they have everything that is important – family, love and one another.

This book, whose target reader is much, much younger than I, uses an idealized view of life. Using an engaging story, it reinforces 19th-century morals and the importance of appreciating the gifts one has been given. Though the internal battles that Polly deals with do resonate with those that face young adults today, I can see a teen in the 21st century being challenged to apply the lessons of the story to their modern lives.

But if you are a true romantic at heart, you will appreciate the end – where the Shaw son, Tom, loses an enormous sum gambling, heads out west to find himself and financial stability, and returns to the east coast mature and ready to marry his one true love, Polly.

Do you want to know the name of the girl I’ve loved for more that a year? Well, it’s Polly!

As he spoke, Tom stretched out his arms to her, with the sort of mute eloquence that cannot be resisted, and Polly went straight into them, without a word.

Never mind what happened for a little bit. Love scenes, if genuine, are indescribable; for those who have enacted them, the most eleborate description seems tame, and to those who have not, the simplest picture seems overdone. So romancers had better let imagination paint for them that which is above all art, and leave their lovers to themselves during the happiest moments of their lives.


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