In March, a sequel to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868), Geraldine Brooks provides life to the largely absent and unknown John March, the father of the four March girls. Alcott’s novel says little about Mr. March, who, as her novel begins, is away in his capacity as a Union army chaplain during the American Civil War. After his return home, he has a tendency to hide from his family in his library, making him an absent father, a typical figure in nineteenth century novels.
If Alcott based the four March sisters on herself and her three sisters, Brooks perused Mr. March’s journals for her own depiction. The fictional figure Mr. March rehabilitates the historical figure A. Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott’s own father, with whom she had a complex relationship. Mr. Alcott is often remembered as an ineffectual parent whose inability to financially provide for his family prompted his second daughter to attempt publishing to support the family. He now has become a footnote in most history textbooks, which ignore his significant contributions to pedagogy and his defense of causes such as abolitionism or vegetarianism. His philosophy has been overshadowed by his better-known neighbors and close family friends, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who appear as friends of Mr. March in March. Mr. Alcott’s advanced views on teaching were misunderstood in his time, and he was accused of corrupting children’s innate...
(The entire section is 592 words.)