We Alcotts Essay - Critical Essays

Aileen L. Fisher, Olive Rabe


As the subtitle announces, We Alcotts is written within the shadow of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, yet since Abba May Alcott is given the narrative voice, the book never becomes an exclusive biography of any one of the Alcotts but rather the story of how their family developed and worked together. Together with the public events of the lives of Bronson and Louisa Alcott, both famous in their day, We Alcotts deals with the small details of family life. Birthday parties are as important as abolitionist rallies, and Bronson Alcott’s devoted attention to his daughters throughout their lives is the best illustration of his educational theories.

Abba May Alcott’s voice is unfailingly loving in descriptions of her husband and children, yet the hardships faced by the family during the years of the children’s dependence are daunting. Bronson Alcott’s contradictory nature enabled him to be supremely gifted at practical skills such as farming and woodworking yet supremely impractical in earning a living, entirely devoted to his family yet ready to risk their health and lives for the furtherance of abstract principle. The contrast of the intellectual and spiritual wealth of the Alcott family life with their aching poverty is a constant theme of the book.

Louisa’s financial success rescued the family from the morass of poverty, but it was won at the expense of her health. She died only two days after her father, completely worn out by her years of feverish hard work and anxiety. The question of her hostility toward the improvident but adored father, whose notions dragged his family through such hardships, is not explored by Fisher and Rabe, yet much lies between the lines...

(The entire section is 705 words.)