Alcott’s Little Women: The Laurence Home

Is there a classic that you’ve read and loved as a child and continued to love and re-read well into adulthood?

Little Women

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

For me, that book was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I first read the book (the edition that included Part I: Little Women and Part II: Good Wives) when I was about twelve years old. Who couldn’t help but fall in love with the charming story of the March family, set in a picturesque 19th century New England suburb? As a young girl I laughed and cried with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy as they went through their little trials and tribulations. I reveled in Alcott’s quaint and detailed descriptions of the girls and their daily lives. I adored the book so much I must have read it half a dozen times.

When the latest movie adaptation of the book (starring Winona Ryder as Jo) came out, I was eager to see it, but ended up terribly disappointed. While the costumes and sets were fine, the casting was an epic fail. The movie was populated with actors who neither looked nor acted the part, and who did not even bother to read the book. “How could they not?” I thought indignantly. “The book is such an easy read!” For me, actors who did not read the original book were doing a grave injustice to fans of the book and its author.

These days, I am more forgiving of bad book-to-movie adaptations, labeling them as “artistic interpretations”. Hey, just because a book-based movie was awful doesn’t mean the book itself was equally bad, and vice-versa.

Louisa May Alcott. Source: wikipedia.com

Louisa May Alcott. Source: wikipedia.com

It’s inevitable that when a girl grows up, her academic knowledge and life experiences color the way she (re)reads a childhood favorite. I’ve seen many jaded, contemptuous adults (as well as worldly 21st century young girls) slam Little Women as corny, maudlin, cheesy, smarmy, simplistic, insipid, moralistic, manipulative, condescending, and so on. The book and its author have been analyzed and vilified under feminist and postmodernist lenses; the theme, plot and characterizations deconstructed to expose issues with gender, sexuality, war, racism, family, pride and prejudice, small-town life, class society…the list is endless.

An interesting twist is that it seems the author herself intensely disliked the book and the sequels she wrote, claiming she only did it for the money.

While I’ve grown up and no longer read anything through rose-colored glasses, I still cherish Little Women, and consider the whimsical stories and conversational narrative an historical, albeit non-representative, window into Victorian era America. To this day it is still my all-time favorite coming-of-age classic.

The What Ifs

Source: Top left, pcgamereader.com; top right & bottom right, mysterygamecentral.com; bottom left, pc.gamezone.com; middle banner, us.boontygames.com

Source: Top left, pcgamereader.com; top right & bottom right, mysterygamecentral.com; bottom left, pc.gamezone.com; middle banner, us.boontygames.com

In 2005 a role-playing game based on Agatha Christie’s murder mystery And Then There Were None was released. RPG! Based on a novel I read in my early teens! (Although not many consider Christie’s bloody whodunit a classic, it was one of her bestselling titles). I really enjoyed the interiors of the And Then There Were None game–not that I played it myself, but just from the look of it, thanks to the kind folks who provided screenshots.

That was when I thought of my beloved childhood book, Little Women. What if it was made into a RPG? What if it was turned into a Choose Your Own Adventure type of story? This was easy peasy to consider, because much as I loved Little Women, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if?

What if Jo was unable to rescue Amy at the river?
What if Beth fully recovered from scarlet fever?
What if Meg married Ned Moffat instead of John Brooke?
What if Jo’s plan to bring Meg and Laurie together worked?
What if Aunt Carrol took Jo to Europe instead of Amy?
What if Jo accepted Laurie’s proposal?
What if Mr. March never came back from the war?
What if Amy married Fred Vaughn instead?
What if Professor Bhaer was never given the job offer and left town without saying goodbye?
What if Aunt March never bequeathed Plumfield to Jo?

And on and on…

In Style

If somebody ever makes a RPG for Little Women (sure it’s lame but a girl can dream!), I would love to design the interiors! From the March’s humble abode, to the stately mansion of the Laurences, to Aunt March’s treasure-filled Victorian home, to the Moffats’ palatial residence.

Alcott describes the Laurence residence as follows:

“Now, the garden separated the Marches’ house from that of Mr. Laurence. Both stood in a suburb of the city, which was still country like, with groves and lawns, large gardens, and quiet streets. A low hedge parted the two estates. On one side was an old, brown house, looking rather bare and shabby, robbed of the vines that in summer covered its walls and the flowers, which then surrounded it. On the other side was a stately stone mansion, plainly betokening every sort of comfort and luxury, from the big coach house and well-kept grounds to the conservatory and the glimpses of lovely things one caught between the rich curtains.” (Excerpt from the book)

Fortunately for us, the family house where Alcott wrote Little Women still stands. Below is the Orchard House, one of the Alcott family homes in Concord, Massachusetts.

All archival photographs from the Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association. Interior Photographs by Heather Wager. Source: www.louisamayalcott.org

All archival photographs from the Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association. Interior Photographs by Heather Wager. Source: louisamayalcott.org

Now over to the other side of the fence (well, hedge). I’ve always imagined the Laurence home as an elegant, Georgian Colonial mansion with manicured lawns and Neoclassical interiors with a Victorian piece or two. Like the ones below:

Georgian Colonial mansions. Source: Top, rd.com; bottom, whollyhouses.com

Georgian Colonial mansions. Source: Top, rd.com; bottom, whollyhouses.com

So I decided to model a couple of rooms for the Laurences. Check out the links below for more!

Related Links

Alcott’s Little Women: The Dining Room Model – my model of the Laurences’ dining room.
Alcott’s Little Women: The Living Room – my model of the Laurences’ living room.

Image Sources

Source of Game Screenshots:
PC Game Reader
Mystery Game Central
Gamezone
Boontygames

Source of Orchard House Photos:
Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association

Source of Georgian Exterior Photos:
Reader’s Digest
Wholly Houses

Recommended Book

There are several editions of Little Women. Some are abridged, revised, “retold”, or cut in half (Part I sold separately from Part II). Some are illustrated, and to make space for the drawings the conversations are truncated and scenes are taken out in their entirety. The book is quite entertaining and an easy read, so I strongly suggest to read the complete story. “Complete” starts with “Chapter 1: Playing Pilgrims” and ends with “Chapter 47: Harvest Time”. If the book is less than 500 pages long it’s probably the truncated version. If you’d rather read the electronic version the Project Gutenberg (free) ebook is here.



We Would Love to Hear from You!

So, what do you think? Do you like this style? Do you have similar ideas or products to recommend? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.


4 Comments

  1. krissw says:

    little women rpg! ahahaha claire u so funny! my what if: “what if beth survived and laurie married her as a favor to jo?”
    lookin forward to your model of da grandpa laurence library, da one jo loved so much.

    • Hmm, that “what if” is an interesting one, knowing that Laurie would go great lengths to please Jo. 🙂

      So sorry, Krissie, the library slipped my mind! So far I’m done with modeling the drawing room and dining room, with a view of the hall. But not the library. Funny I’ve modeled the above rooms when there weren’t really any scenes that occurred there! 🙁

  2. Sharon says:

    Wow, did you really re-read LW that often? I was aghast to read that Alcott called the book “moral pap”. I showed the paragraph to a friend who also liked the book and she couldn’t see why the phrase was insulting (again making me aghast). Ah well. I doubt an LW RPG will ever happen but I’d like to see those interiors.

    • I think I read it about 3 times when I was 12, and a few times each year after that, until my early twenties. So I’d say about a dozen times, rough estimate 🙂

      I wasn’t all that surprised to learn that Alcott detested her own books. Some creative types end up hating the work they produce, for reasons only known to them (unless, of course, they tell the public what those reasons are).

      If you have a “what if” on the Little Women plot let me know!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. Alcott’s Little Women: A Role-Playing Game? Part II | Beverly Claire Designs - [...] Part I of this series I gave a background of the book Little Women and how I had managed…
  3. Alcott’s Little Women: A Role-Playing Game? Part IV | Beverly Claire Designs - [...] Alcott’s Little Women: A Role Playing Game? Part I – what this is all about. Alcott’s Little Women: A…

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