Reader beware: The discussion following references the ends of the stories in a very general way, which might be considered “spoilerish” by some, but I think that a reader familiar with Little Women, or a typical Christmas story, would not be surprised by any of the endings. No specific plots are given away.
Contains the stories:
“The Quiet Little Woman”
These three tales were originally published in Little Things, a late-1800s home-produced magazine by the Lukens sisters. Fans of Alcott, they were inspired by Little Women to create their own publication and, after writing to the famous writer of their endeavor, she supplied them with several original stories to include in the magazine.
Such a poor little supper, and yet such a happy one, for love, charity, and contentment were welcome guests around the humble table. That Christmas eve was a sweeter one even than that at the great house, where light shone, fires blazed, a great tree glittered, music sounded, and children danced and played.
(From “Tilly’s Christmas”)
Years ago, when I first received this little book I read and was enchanted by all three stories. Quintessential Christmas stories, each contains a central character who longs for something desperately but with little hope of getting it as Christmas Eve turns to Christmas Day. They are simple tales, ultimately hopeful and optimistic about the human spirit and human nature. They should be perfect Christmas reading, and I looked towards them eagerly this year as the day itself quickly approaches.
This time, I was not nearly as charmed or enthralled. Although each story moralizes, fitting to the era of their first publication, it was not this, but the pat, happy endings that bothered me. Quite frankly, my discomfort with such neat ends is not the story itself, but by my own reality—my experiences with the real world have unfortunately made me a bit cynical and bitter. In the real world goodness and virtue might be its own reward, but isn’t necessarily rewarded. Value is too often placed on things other than those which are good or truly worthwhile.
Alcott’s stories should be a remedy, an antidote to these hard realities, reminding us of people who are benevolent and good and kind. But this year, this difficult year, it just doesn’t work for me. And that’s really sad.
Maybe next year.