We Alcotts Essay - Critical Context

Aileen L. Fisher, Olive Rabe

Critical Context

We Alcotts differs most strikingly from other Alcott books in its viewpoint. Rather than focusing exclusively on one of the central famous characters in the family, it focuses on the family as a whole and their collective struggle to survive spiritually as well as physically. There are several excellent biographies of Louisa May Alcott. Madeline B. Stern’s Louisa May Alcott (1950), with its lengthy bibliography and extensive source notes, is a much more detailed exploration of the famous author’s life, but is meant for adult readers. The best-known work aimed at children is Cornelia Meigs’ Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of “Little Women” (1933). Although Louisa’s aspirations and work fill a sizable portion of We Alcotts, they are seen through her mother’s eyes, within the context of other family activities.

Fisher and Rabe’s decision to write in Abba’s first-person voice using words and events drawn from her letters and journals gives their book a highly personal tone, but it does not allow for harsh criticism of Bronson Alcott or speculation on themes which Mrs. Alcott preferred not to discuss. Abba is often preoccupied with practical necessities, but she is also an extremely well-read and idealistic woman whose breadth of vision made her a true helpmate for her philosopher husband. Young readers may find the early chapters, with their presentation of Bronson Alcott’s theories, less interesting than those in which the children play an ever-growing role, yet Abba is the perfect companion with whom to make the acquaintance of Emerson and Thoreau. The reader is sure to leave We Alcotts with a heightened understanding of these great men and the period in which they lived and worked.