Little Women, Empathy, and Anime

This is what Our Corner looks like during Watertown's Library Sale. Every year.People tell me I read “a lot.” Truth is, I read far less than I would like, and much, much less than I did through my elementary and high school years. When the librarians know you by name; when you are an exception to the San Francisco Library System’s limit on number of books allowed to be checked out at one time; when you enter a Read-a-Thon and win enough pizza to feed your family for several weeks; then you read “a lot.” What I do now is read ‘whenever I can, which isn’t very often due to silly adulthood responsibilities and sudden physiological need for sleep.’

I’ve always been able to completely immerse myself in a book, only emerging hours later when the story is finished. I view the world in real time like a movie, but with dimensions like life. I’ve always been a viewer, a third-person as opposed to entering or identifying as a character in first-person. Turns out that’s a good sign.

One can’t always remain detached, however, and I cannot help but empathize with characters at certain times. While reading from a place of aloofness has its uses, literature should also make you feel strongly and often. (I’ve cried at far more books than movies, and I don’t see that trend changing in the future.)

One of those times which is most impressed upon me is a situation in Little Women.

Let me go out on a limb and say if you’re reading this blog, you’ve likely read Little Women. Or if you’ve not, you never intend to. Thus I feel free to spoil a bit.

Additionally, if you haven’t read or don’t intend to read the book, I can’t imagine you’ve seen or plan to see the movie(s), either – though did you know there are not not two, not three, but four anime series of this great work!?

Well, my ‘learning something new’ is done for the day.

I always had a special place in my heart for Jo. Turns out that’s far from original. Jo is an aspiring writer who labors over manuscripts and stories and letters, and also sends many of them to her beloved father, who is off at war. At one point, Jo is going on a rare outing to the theatre, and – for multiple reasons, all of them sound, though none quite requiring the condescension they’re given with – she denies her youngest sister Amy the ability to tag along. Jo returns and nothing seems amiss, other than Amy is acting miffed. Which is hardly unusual for Amy. Only later does Jo discover Amy has burned Jo’s manuscript, her labor of love that has taken years to create and write.

Jo is understandable furious. I say ‘understandably,’ but it strikes me that many other readers would not have had the same viewpoint. Of course Alcott being a writer, Jo is written as a more sympathetic character, at least to begin with. Then we have the error of letting anger continue, truly appreciating those you love, blah, blah, blah. Amy is never truly punished, she never seems comprehensively repentant, and she does nothing to replace the manuscript; though what can you do, really, with no harddrives or fireproof safes?

All this served to make me, understandably furious. Now I am curious: who else felt this way? Is there even another feeling to be had? To this end, I am issuing my first ever Blog Poll. Please select your answer, and feel free to leave a more detailed comment if you have additional feedback or if your answer isn’t properly represented.

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