Louisa May Alcott is a distinguished writer from the 18th century. She wrote books, letters, poems, journals, etc. that are still loved today; one great example is Little Women. Her works are read world wide, and have been for years. So, who influenced the works of Louisa May Alcott? To get a good idea of the influences in the life of Louisa May Alcott, you need to know a little about her life, as every part of her life has an influence that can be seen in her works.
Some of the major things that influenced her works include the people she associated with, the circumstances in her life, and her personal experiences.
The People She Associated With:
Alcott was a daughter of noted Transcendentalist Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail May Alcott. Many of her views came from the philosophies taught in her home. Louisa’s father started the Temple School. This led to her interacting with many of the most famous Transcendentalists of her time. She also got many ideas from her uncle, Samuel Joseph May, a noted abolitionist.
Louisa’s influences are not just limited to famous Transcendentalists, however, she also had three sisters, an older sister named Anna, and two younger sisters, Elizabeth and May. Many of her characters were modeled after personality characteristics from them.
During her early years, Alcott’s education had included lessons from the naturalist Henry David Thoreau. She also received some instruction from writers and educators such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller, who were all family friends. It is no wonder she became such a great writer as much of her youth was surrounded with high thinking individuals and ideals. Alcott associated with many famous thinkers, and their influence can be seen throughout her works. In 1835 her father joined the Transcendental Club with Emerson and Thoreau, and the ideals of this club rubbed off on Louisa May because they were frequent visitors to her home. In fact, her first book was a collection of tales she wrote for Ralph Waldo Emerson’s daughter Ellen. This work was titled Flower Fables.
The circumstances of Louisa May Alcott’s family led them to modest living with high thinking, and a lot of ideas that were new. Louisa May Alcott’s family was very poor, which is also something that greatly influenced the tone and ideas behind much of her writing, and inspired her, in part, to write in the first place. She found that she was able to earn money and help her family with the proceeds from her writing.
As she grew older, she developed as both an abolitionist and a feminist. Her uncle was an abolitionist and in 1847, the family housed a fugitive slave for one week. Her feminist and abolitionist thoughts are seen in many, if not all of her works.
Her personal reading also influenced what she wrote about and her thoughts. In 1848 Alcott read and admired the “Declaration of Sentiments” published by the Seneca Falls Convention on women’s rights. This may have been the initial influence of much of her feminist thinking.
In 1860, Alcott began writing for the Atlantic Monthly. At the time she was nurse in the Union Hospital at Georgetown, D.C. In fact it was the letters she sent home, with a few changes that first got published and helped her get critical recognition. Much of her work was formed from letters, journals, etc. kept during such times.
As you can see, Louisa May Alcott was a forward thinker, ahead of most in her time. She associated with the great minds of that century, and of all time, and this is evident in her work. She was open minded and let herself gain insight from other’s works. Alcott’s novel Little Women is full of characters that seem to contradict with the roles of the time. Her protagonists are willful and relentless in their pursuit of their own aims, which often include revenge on those who have humiliated or thwarted them. It is this sort of thing that led to her fame, and why we still read her works today.
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