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Lessons in Wifery from Little Women

Little Women is one of the greatest books ever written for helping aspiring young girls become women of excellence. It models not just one but four different ways a woman can use her femininity to find happiness and make a contribution to the world. It’s no wonder that most girls who read the novel associate strongly with one of the March sisters—the sisters embody the four fundamental ways to be a woman.

  • The Matron: Meg is the Matron. Her greatest sense of fulfillment comes from running a happy home full of the people she cares about. The Matron wants to take care of all of her family’s needs by herself. Her desire to be self-sufficient can lead to trouble. For example, Meg causes tension in her marriage by trying to raise the children without allowing her husband to help.
  • The Teacher: Jo is the Teacher. Her greatest sense of fulfillment comes from understanding complex ideas and sharing them with others. She is tempted by personal fame and glory. For example, Jo first writes novels and plays to earn the acclaim of others. The Teacher often struggles to see the feminine in herself. (It’s easy to perceive ideas as part of a man’s world and forget that women can do the work of the mind, too.) She can be callus and merciless to those who aren’t as smart as she is.
  • The Saint: Beth is the Saint. Her greatest sense of fulfillment comes from meeting the emotional needs of others. She is tempted to smother the people she cares about with her love. She also struggles to accept change. The Saint is often painfully shy. For example, Beth is initially unwilling to accept from others the same patient love she offers to everyone else. She also has a difficult time doing things for herself.
  • The Diva: Amy is the Diva. Her greatest sense of fulfillment comes from being able to entertain others. She dreams of being a talented artist, the perfect hostess, or a wealthy patroness. Her goals are all lofty when accomplished for the pleasure of others. The Diva can easily become vain. It is easy to become self-centered when you’re made to be in the limelight.

Most women I’ve ever met fit into one of these four models. Matrons, teachers, saints, and divas are all valuable individuals who ought to find fulfillment and happiness in their lives.

But they don’t—at least not always.

Consider another, more modern group of four women: Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha of HBO’s Sex in the City. These four women feel the same basic needs and desires as the March sisters. But, unlike the March sisters, their endings are bitter sweet and their lives don’t ultimately seem to give them much satisfaction:

  • Carrie is a teacher. She likes to share her life and the lessons she learns with other people through her column. Unfortunately, her life is full of unhealthy relationships and glamour. Try as she might, she doesn’t have much worthwhile to offer her readers. Throughout the series, she entertains second thoughts about her lifestyle, especially when she compares it to friends who have “moved on” to homes and families.
  • Miranda is a matron. Yet her education and fierce climb to the top of a competitive field have left her bitter and disappointed with men. She is the most androgynous of the four women because she doesn’t know how to be woman at all. When motherhood falls into her lap, she struggles to appreciate her new, uniquely feminine, role.
  • Charlotte is a diva, but the Matron’s role is the only way she understands her femininity. Even though she loves her job, she leaves it to become a housewife. She focuses her energy on conceiving a family and feels unfulfilled because she is infertile.
  • And Samantha… is a saint. Really. Her greatest sense of fulfillment comes from expressing love to others. But Samantha has only physical love to offer. When, late in the series, her illness makes physical love difficult, she struggles to define herself and her role in a stable relationship.

No one can be happy without knowing who and what she is.

Which March sister do you see yourself in? Let us know in the comments.

3 responses »

  1. I’m actually re-reading this classic right now, and have been thinking about which March sister I personify. I’m definitely a Teacher, but I’ve noticed I’ve begun taking on more and more qualities of the Matron…

    P.S. Loved the match ups to SATC.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Lessons in Wifery from My Big Fat Greek Wedding « Experimental Wifery

  3. Pingback: Lessons in Wifery from Homer’s Odyssey « Experimental Wifery

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