An ideal conformity
---An Analysis of Jo’s Struggle between Familial Duty and Personal Growth Abstract: Boyish Jo, the heroine in Little Women written by Louisa May Alcott, is brave, decisive and has her own dreams. However, as a female in the traditional society, it is difficult for Jo to walk away and get rid of her burdens to pursue her dream. This thesis intends to show how Jo reaches an ideal conformity, under which she lives a dutiful and meaningful family life although her dreams haven’t totally come true yet, through analyzing her struggle between familial duty and personal growth. Key words: conformity; little women; relatively optimal choice
Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29th, 1832, the second daughter of Amos Bronson, who was not a particularly responsible father or husband, although he was an enthusiastic transcendentalist philosopher, abolitionist, and teacher. Alcott struggled with the ladylike behavior that was expected of girls in the nineteenth century. She understood that for women, having a family meant professional loss, and having a profession meant personal loss. Little Women talks about lives of four girls in the March family during the Civil War and dramatizes this struggle between the desire to help one’s family and the desire to help oneself. The main character, Jo March, is based in large part on Louisa May Alcott herself. Some critics focus on the way that Ms March educates her four daughter and the processes in which the four sisters build themselves up as perfect, elegant ladies to make life meaningful and beautiful through all the difficulties. They think this book sets a good example on how to educate children at home for parents. Without any doubt, a lot of critics pay more attention on its inspiring and directive effort on the development of feminism. They think that the lack of detailed descriptions about male characters and the actions of the four sisters pursuing their happiness, especially Jo, present the feminist spirit and thinking of the author. Also, there are other critics find that it is difficult for females to break traditional boundaries thoroughly, which is revealed from the Little Women. For example, in “Another kind of New females: Compromising to tradition”, scholar He Xiaoying argues that Jo grows up to be another kind of new females, a role between traditional women and independent women, who is still dependent in her thought though compromising to the tradition to some degree. In “Challenge of Obedience¬¬¬¬—A Marxist-Feminist Interpretation of Little Women’, scholar Diao Weiyang mentions that there are two voice in Little Women, one of which is the thematic patriarchal, under which lies another lower voice presenting us a praiseworthy female-dominated new world. Those opinions above are all acceptable for their reasonable evidences. But actually, from my point of view, Jo makes an ideal conformity under which she lives a dutiful and meaningful family life although her dreams haven’t totally come true. In the struggle to live both a dutiful family life and a meaningful professional life, Jo meets many difficulties that block her. What’s more, in the process of struggle, Jo unconsciously conforms to tradition while she still tries to pursue her dreams and fulfill her personal growth. In fact, every time she is in the selection dilemma, there is a trade off in her heart. Always, the relatively optimal option which brings more happiness to her is to place more emphasis on her family. So once she makes a choice from a struggle, one step is closer to make her ideal conformity for her. In the beginning of the book, Jo claimed that:
"I hate to think I've got to grow up and be Miss March, and wear long gowns, and look as prim as a China Aster. It's bad enough to be a girl, any way, when I like boy's games and work and manners. I can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy, and it's worse than ever now, for I'm dying to go and fight with papa, and I...
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