Have you ever come across a crime in literature that goes unpunished? Or a crime where the punishment leaves you unsatisfied?
This blog segment is about what YOU would have done as the author, if one of your characters had been…let’s say, naughty. “Naughty” covers all manner of genres and sins.
For this edition, I’ve chosen an example from Little Women, a book that I’m currently re-reading (by the way, did you know that this novel is Louisa May Alcott’s least favorite of all her works? Crazy, huh? I just read that in the foreword in my copy, and was a little saddened, but thought I’d share it in the name of writerly trivia).
Summary: The book is a largely the story of the four March sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) and their mother living in Concord, Massachusetts in the late 1800s.It deals with family struggles, and the individual dreams and hopes of each sister. Jo (2nd oldest) is a tomboy and aspiring writer and Amy (youngest) is a prissy, shallow little snot—woops, I mean an aspiring artist whose tastes run on the fancy side.
Motive: The three older girls are allowed to go to a theater show. Amy is told to stay home by Meg, who says, “Mother doesn’t wish you to go this week, because your eyes are not well enough yet to bear the light of this fairy piece. Next week you can go with Beth and Hannah (the maid) and have a nice time.”
Amy begs and Meg starts to give in.
Jo claims that if Amy goes, she won’t. She points out that the neighbor boy invited them to go, and there are reserved seats. Admittedly, Jo is a little mean about it.
Amy says ominously, “You’ll be sorry for this, Jo March!”
Crime: In spite, Amy burns Jo’s manuscript, a compilation of half a dozen fairy tales for their father, who is away at war. Jo has just recopied a fresh version and has discarded all other copies. The fire “consumes the loving work of several years.”
Punishment: Amy is given a little lecture, explaining the severity of what she’s done. She’s told to apologize and beg pardon, which she takes her time doing.
Ladies and Gentlemen of this Literary Court, if you had written Little Women, would your Mother character have delivered a stricter punishment, for something we writers know to be the most heinous of acts?
PS- if you haven’t seen the 1994 movie version of Little Women, it’s a very nice family movie for the holidays!