March 2012

Louisa May Alcott’s Blood And Thunder Tales

Written by Xuelin Yeong

Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, is famous for her ‘sentimental’ stories, or what she calls ‘moral pap’ for the younger readers. Most of her stories are preachy; that is, they talk about various virtues, the goodness of simplicity, modesty, frugality—well, you get the idea. “Rose in Bloom” features a rich and beautiful heiress, who is kind and generous despite her wealth; “Kitty’s Class Day” is about a young girl who insists in imitating other girls and dressing up in ridiculous fashions that was unsuitable for her. She comes to grief when a young gentleman accidentally stepped on her long dress, ruining it and humiliating her in front of public.

Initially I enjoyed reading such stories very much, for it gave me a glimpse into Victorian life, including the way they dressed and the moral ideals they upheld; but at one point all the ‘moral talk’ became too much to bear, and I started to wonder if Alcott only wrote such stories, and nothing else.

Then, scrolling through my book list in my e-book reader, I came across an interesting title –Behind the Mask/A Woman’s Power. I thought that it is a book about feminism—but no, it wasn’t. It turned out that I have stumbled upon one of Alcott’s ‘blood and thunder tales’, which, in other words, are sensational stories (by the standards of those days, of course). These stories feature deceit, twisted love and obsession, manipulation, and even murder.

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