Louisa May Alcott
By Mary Van Nattan

 Louisa May Alcott is considered by many people to be an excellent writer of children's stories.  Her book Little Woman is considered a classic and has been among the most popular books for girls.  It has been made into a movie on a number of occasions which has added to its fame.

But, was Miss Alcott really a person that you should trust with your children's minds?  After all, the author of a book for children is putting things into their minds - things that may influence their thinking for years to come. This can be used for the glory of God, or it can be used for the world, the flesh and the devil. 

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 

An Unworthy Foundation

To begin with, we find in an article entitled "The Thrill of the Chase" by Enrica Gadler, assistant editor at Random House, that Louisa May Alcott's father was a "Transcendentalist philosopher."  Amos Bronson Alcott, had an "interest in Eastern religion and philosophy." Louisa May's sympathy for her father's doctrines of devils is shown in the reference to "the spirited correspondence of young Louisa May, who affectionately tweaked her father's metaphysical ponderings by quipping in one letter: 'I have not seen my honored Pa today, and know nothing of his engagements, but if you have written he will emerge from his communings with the Oversoul long enough to respond, I trust.'"Although she teased him about his beliefs, she nevertheless "shared many of her father's views."

Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

Louisa's father tried to live his beliefs, with tragic results for his family. We find in one article that "Alcott's father, Bronson, was a philosopher and educational reformer whose idealistic projects kept the family in poverty; financial security did not come until 'Little Women'." (1) Thus, we see that Louisa helped support the family in the place of her father who was too taken with his philisophical distractions to care for his own wife and children. Her mother also worked to help support the family. "Abigail May Alcott - Bronson's wife, was foremost a homemaker but was also frequently the breadwinner for the family." (3)

1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

"Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual. They had faith that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. It is only from such real individuals that true community could be formed."

"Transcendentalism developed as a reaction against 18th Century rationalism, John Locke's philosophy of Sensualism, and the predestinationism of New England Calvinism. It is fundamentally a variety of diverse sources such as Hindu texts like the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, various religions, and German idealism."


Wikipedia
From Reactives as Incorporated into the American Myth (2) we learn "Louisa May Alcott...followed her parents' Transcendental teachings while grounding them in reality, saying of her impractical, intellectual father that he was 'a man up on a balloon,' and resolving 'to take Fate by the throat and shake a living out of her (Strauss & Howe, 211).'"
Notice the reference to "Fate" and that she called it a "her." No acknowledgement of God Almighty is evident here at all.

One of her father's follies was an attempt at communal living at a farm called "Fruitllands."(An appropriate name no doubt for such a "fruit case".) We read in a description of the place as a tourist attraction, "In 1843, Bronson Alcott moved with his family and fellow believers (of Transcendentalism) to this remote farmhouse to start a utopian community called the Con-Sociate Family on the Fruitlands.  Seeking perfection based on Christian teachings and the innate goodness of the human soul, they practiced a strict vegetarian diet and held regular philosophic discussions. This experiment in idealistic living (by the fruits of the land) was influential, yet short-lived (seven months)." (3)

Notice the attempted mixture of Christianity,  Humanism, and Hinduism.  The "seeking perfection" and "vegetarian diet" relating to Hinduism; the "innate goodness", Transcendentalism and "philosophic discussions" relating to Humanism, and the "Christian teachings" relating to Christianity. There was also a mystical aspect to Transcendentalism in general which was doubtless present at Fruitlands.  We read in Galatians 5:9, A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.  This lump was mostly leaven!

Louisa May Alcott also had questionable associations. Among the Alcott family's friends we find Ralph Waldo Emerson, the leader of Transcendentalism in the U.S.; Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of dark, psychological romances; and Henry David Thoreau, another Transcendentalist, tax rebel and inspiration of anarchism. Emerson actually helped support the Alcott family by helping with housing. "Alcott first met Thoreau when she was just eight years old and living in Concord, where he was her teacher." (4) She wrote a poem entitled "Thoreau's Flute" after his death. The friendships of the Alcott family in these cases would obviously not tend to expose Louisa to wholesome or Christian ideals.

Proverbs 20:11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

How much more so a grown woman that wrote stories for children.

The Product

In light of these things, it is not so very amazing that Miss Alcott's writings should contain the questionable content that they do.  It is a bit of a mystery why these things have been overlooked for so long among Christians.  Let's consider some of the things which she has penned.

First of all, we have Little Women itself. This book is said to be based on the life of the Alcott family, though it is hardly an accurate and realistic representation. The poverty of the March family is not portrayed as the result of a slothful husband and father who couldn't support his family due to his preoccupation with Transcendentalism. In fact, the March family is portrayed as almost Christian, which is far from the truth about the Alcott family.

Also, we find the very independent and boyish "Jo", the equivalent of Louisa, going out on her own and earning a living, in part to help support the family. This is not a helpful book for girls and young ladies to prepare them to be content as home makers.

Titus 2:3-5 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.  

Miss Alcott was certainly not teaching this to her young readers!  She was promoting feminism in this book as she did also in the incorrectly titled book, An Old Fashioned Girl.  It is a sad commentary on generations of Christians that they have missed the message of feminism in these books.  Is it such a surprise that feminism is so rampant in the church today, when the "innocent, sweet stories" that so many grew up on were teaching its ideologies?

The next book, Little Men, is actually a story of what might be the "wish-it-were-so" variety. Here Alcott uses the Fruitland failure to make up the Plumbfield household, a sort of boarding school/orphanage that is co-educational. One of the great themes of the book is humanism, that the bad boys and girls can be made good by loving them and having a positive influence on them. This is in direct conflict with what the scirptures tell us.  Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

In Chapter XV ("In The Willow") of Little Men we find the character "Demi" telling "Dan" about how he controls the bad in himself. Demi says, "I play that my mind is a round room, and my soul is a sort of creature with wings that lives in it. The walls are full of shelves and drawers, and in them I keep my thoughts, and my goodness and badness, and all sorts of things. The goods I keep where I can see them, and the bads I lock up tight, but they get out, and I have to keep putting them in and squeezing them down, they are so strong...Every Sunday I put my room in order, and talk with the little spirit that lives there, and tell him what to do. He is very bad sometimes, and won't mind me, and I have to scold him and take him to grandpa." [Presumably grandpa "March" being the equivalent of Bronson Alcott with his mystical ideologies.] "He always makes him behave, and be sorry for his faults, because grandpa likes this play, and gives me nice things to put in the drawers, and tells my how to shut up the naughties." Notice the complete lack of God and anything Christian at all.  The idea is that we can make ourselves good, and if we have trouble we can get help from other humans. This is gross, agnostic Humanism. It also leans toward mysticism in the allusions of communicating with the "spirit" within and making it behave as desired.  And, the idea of a soul being a winged creature smacks of paganism and devils.

Continuing in Chapter XV we discover Alcott's "plan of salvation." We find "Mrs. Jo" telling "Dan" that she wants him to teach "Demi" what he knows about nature. Dan is surprised at this as he is a boy that has evil habits that he has been trying to stop. This trust by Mrs. Jo, due to his progress, is portrayed as reaching the tender heart under his rough exterior. We read that "...no more powerful restraint could have been imposed upon him than the innocent companion confided to his care." Now, we are familiar with the adage that "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch." This idea that Alcott is presenting here is not only anti-Biblical, it is contrary to a basic understanding of human nature that even unsaved people recognize.  It harks back to that deluded Transcendentalism of her youth, no doubt.  When you entrust an unsaved child that is basically innocent and naive to an unsaved child that has been well versed in the ways of evil, and neither child has been born again, the one that has been exposed to evil will at least tell the other child things that it should not hear. How many kids over the centuries have gone bad because evil was introduced to them by other kids?! So, we see that Alcott substituted responsibility for an innocent child for the work of the Holy Ghost and a new nature.  If her idea was correct, then the best remedy for Hitler, Charles Manson, Jack the Ripper, Mao Tsetung, etc. would have been to have an innocent child placed in their care provided they showed some inclination to "improve."

1 Corinthians 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

Reading further, her rebellion against God's plan of salvation is made even clearer. We read about "Dan", "He felt that he had friends now and a place in the world, something to live and work for, and, though he said little, all that was best and bravest in a character made old by a hard experience responded to the love and faith bestowed on him, and Dan's salvation was assured." (Emphasis added.)  So, according to Louisa, salvation is won by having a place in the world, friends, and love and faith bestowed upon one and then responding to it positively. One can almost hear Robert Schuyler saying "You have possibilities!"

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. 7 And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

Speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ we read in Acts 4:12, Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

There are other objectionable things in the book to say the least, and among them we find some of the children inventing an invisible spirit that they must obey called "The Naughty Kitty-mouse." Demi, on supposedly overhearing a conversation or lesson regarding the way some ancients worshipped their gods, is inspired to have a sacrifice to the "Kitty-mouse" in which he and three others sacrifice their favorite toys on an altar. This is a disgusting thing to put in a children's book! There is no call to even suggest such things to children's minds, especially in the context of "play," "humor," and "fun."It does show, however, the pagan mindset of Louisa May Alcott. Allowing your children's minds to be introduced to such refuse is contrary to scripture.

Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

In the short story "The Brothers" about two brothers in a Civil War hospital we find more evidence of her unbiblical view of salvation. The story relates a tale about a white brother and a half black one that end up in the same area of a hospital. The black one tries to murder the white one for a grudge. The nurse talks him out of it and the white brother lives. The black one is then sent away and this scene is penned by Alcott:

The black man says, "'I'm glad I didn't do it, an' I thank yer, Ma'am, fer hinderin' me,--thank yer hearty; but I'm afraid I hate him jest the same.'

"Of course he did; and so did I; for these faulty hearts of ours cannot turn perfect in a night, but need frost and fire, wind and rain, to ripen and make them ready for the great harvest-home. Wishing to divert his mind, I put my poor mite into his hand, and, remembering the magic of a certain little book, I gave him mine, on whose dark cover whitely shone the Virgin Mother and the Child, the grand history of whose life the book contained. The money went into Robert's pocket with a grateful murmur, the book into his bosom with a long look ..." (7)  [Emphasis added.]

Here we see again the Humanistic religion of the soul becoming better and going to heaven with out God's perfect way of salvation. She preaches, if I may be so describe it, that we can reach perfection through our sufferings. Also, notice the Catholic like superstition about the Bible. She does not even name it but calls it a magic "certain little book," uses the Roman Catholic title Virgin Mother, and does not name the Lord Jesus Christ either, but calls Him "the Child." His life is a "grand history," not the way of salvation, and is "contained" in the book. The book is not the Book of Life to her, but an inspiring, magical story about a Child and Virgin Mother! This smacks of the ancient magic-filled mother/child cult so vividly represented today in the Roman church.  To the true child of God this Book is far more!  To us it is the word of God, the source of all wisdom, the very means by which we are saved (John chapter 1).

1 Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.  

"The wickedness of a loose or profane author is more atrocious than that of a giddy libertine or drunken ravisher, not only because it extends its effects wider, as a pestilence that taints the air is more destructive than poison infused in a draught, but because it is committed with cool deliberation."
- Samuel Johnson
Moving on to the more offensive material (yes it gets worse!) we find that Alcott wrote trash stories in order to help support her family. Among these is a novel that is gaining some notice these days. It is called A Long Fatal Love Chase and the title alone gives a clue to the decadent content of this book. The story is about a young woman named Rosamond who declares that she is often willing to sell her "soul to Satan" to have a year of freedom. On this auspicious note the book starts its gruesome descent. The plot includes adultery, murder and what today would be called "stalking."Naturally, it ends in death. It is described by Enrica Gadler thus, "The magazine editor who commissioned A Long Fatal Love Chase asked that Alcott make 'each second chapter so absorbingly interesting that the reader will be impatient for the next,' and Alcott obliged with the story of the orphaned Rosamond, who falls in love with the brooding, seductive Phillip Tempest...She marries him, flees after she discovers his dangerous nature and amoral past, and is pursued by him right up to the book's dramatic conclusion. The manuscript was eventually turned down by Alcott's publisher for being 'too sensational,' but today its themes of obsessive love, domination, and psychological motivation strike close to home."(6) Note that the story was considered too racy in Alcott's day by a publisher of trash!

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil...

Miss Alcott also wrote short stories to make money. These included horror stories and thrillers that are being brought back into print. (To see reviews of the books containing these as well as A Long Fatal Love Chase, please see the Amazon book page at : http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ats-query/8812-4317112-799075 and http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0679445102/7059-0535668-048768)  The women in some of these short stories are described as "naughty" and the stories as "gruesome." It might be of interest to point out that at least some of these stories were written before Little Women, showing that she didn't just "go bad" later. These sort of stories had gone before and had been produced before or at the same time as the "sweet" Little Women.  

Proverbs 23:6 Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: 7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.

We can surely see that Louisa May Alcott's heart was not with the young "innocent" girls that she seemed to write Little Woman and other stories for. Mothers, please, do not let your girls partake of the "dainty meats" of this evil eyed, evil hearted woman!

The last, and perhaps the most dangerous (to young people), of her writings that I would bring your attention is a short story that falls into the category of her romance stories. "Perilous Play" is the tale of a group of dissipated, rich, young people that find themselves bored and seeking some new and unusual entertainment. A young doctor in their midst obliges their lust by introducing them to hashish (hemp, marijuana). Two of the group refuse to eat the candy in which the drug is contained, but the others accept it. The reader discovers later that the two who refused each ate their share secretly. The results of this are given, and it is portrayed as foolish of them. After being caught in a storm and each "confessing" their "love" for the other as being their reason for taking the drug, they barely manage to bring the sail boat that they are in to safety when they are caught in a storm. Their experience, while described as rather miserable, nonetheless produces a positive result worth the misery and near calamity.  The outcome of the story is that the boy gets the girl, thanks to hashish. The final line in the story ends thus,  "He stretched his hand to her with his heart in his face, and she gave him hers with a look of tender submission, as he said ardently, 'Heaven bless hashish, if its dreams end like this!'" We see the end result being not only good, but heaven blessed. The message is that if a shy young person wants to win their true "love" it might be worth their while to drug their bodies and minds in order to bring this about!  Hello?  Is that overstatement, or is it not?  Is marriage something to pursue without your full faculties and reasoning?  Ultimately what she is teaching here is that the end justifies the means - a dangerous and ungodly idea.  (Here is the whole story --"Perilous Play" (1869)  (8) for those that need to read it to be convinced.)

In conclusion, how can we, as Christians, approve of the writings of such a degraded woman?

We find Louisa May Alcott believing many evil things.  We find her "preaching" another gospel, which is not the gospel of God's word.  We find her "preaching" her pagan, humanistic beliefs in her "good" stories, and living these amoral beliefs out in the writing of the trash stories. We find her encouraging her readers to immoral or risky behavior.  In light of the scriptures, this woman's books ought not be used in a Christian home (except if they are needed to prove her wickedness to others). They certainly are not good as literature for Christian young people by any stretch of the imagination!  

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things;
hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Links on this site:

What Shall We Then Read?


(1) http://sunsite.unc.edu/cheryb/women/LouisaM-Alcott.html
(2) (An All-American Love/Hate Relationship); Rebecca Gilley; December 11, 1995; The Development of the American Mind; Bill Garrett, instructor; John F. Kennedy University.
(3) http://www.inc.net/~fhs/littour/fruit.html   (Booksites.com)
(4) Thomas A. La Porte, Exhibit Curator; Special Collections Library; Hatcher Graduate Library; University of Michigan; tlaporte@umich.edu ; http://www.lib.umich.edu/spec-coll/radicals.htm
(6)  The Thrill of the Chase; Article by Enrica Gadler, assistant editor at Random House. http://www.randomhouse.com/atr/fall95/alcott.html
(7)Copyright © 1995 The Atlantic Monthly. All rights reserved. http://www.theatlantic.com/atlantic/atlweb/aandc/alcott/alcott.htm
(8)http://www.lycaeum.org/~sputnik/Ludlow/Texts/perilous.html

 

graphics by or edited by mary vannattan