Little Women has got to be one of the greatest stories ever written. It makes me cry like a baby every single time. The prose and dialogue are just so…pleasing. The characterizations are amazing, and the people seem to leap from the pages. The eloquence of it even shines through in the dialogue of the movies based on the novel. The relationships between the characters are so well-developed; the characters are wonderfully flawed (though Jo says she is “hopelessly flawed”), and there’s nothing glamorous about them. It’s beautiful.
I only wish I knew how to write like that. The fact is that most people don’t have nearly the vocabulary everyday people had one hundred years ago. With all of the advances made during that time, I feel that there just aren’t many writers anymore who are able to write prose with the type of rhetoric that was common during Louisa May Alcott’s or Jane Austen’s time. It just seems to me that language was grander then.
Of course, I know that the language varied between the classes and from region to region. But there are simple words that some people don’t even understand these days. I believe I once wrote on this very blog that I had a friend who didn’t know the meaning of the word “swoon.”
I’m sorry if it makes me sound like a judgmental snob, but when someone can’t use proper grammar or can’t be bothered to even try to pronounce a word or name correctly, it makes me wince and consider them ignorant. The worst is when someone knows grammar rules and is purposely obtuse just because they don’t feel like it’s important. It is. If you don’t think so, read letters written by not only writers like Jane Austen, but by regular people of the same era. Simple correspondence written so beautifully. Do love letters still exist, by the way? I would…ahem…swoon if someone wrote a love letter like this simple line Mozart wrote to his wife:
Adieu – Dearest, most beloved little wife – Take care of your health – and don’t think of walking into town. Do write and tell me how you like our new quarters – Adieu. I kiss you millions of times.
It’s not even a particularly romantic line, yet the language is so pretty.
I wish people would acknowledge the beauty of language and actually make an attempt to use it properly. It’s not that difficult.
The difference between “good” and “well,” for example. Good describes a noun. Well describes an action. This ice cream is so good! He plays the piano very well. It’s really not that difficult.
On the other hand, I realize that it might not be considered “cool” to sound intelligent. I don’t understand it at all. My sister and I were having a discussion about this very thing a few weeks ago. Even in our adult lives, both of us have been made fun of for this. Maybe it’s done in a teasing way, but it still stings somewhat.
This post took a turn somewhere… I only meant to write about the beauty of Little Women. Haha… I’m sorry that it turned into a sort of diatribe. If you don’t understand what I mean, pick up a copy of this novel (or most novels of the era or earlier). Flip it open to any page (you could even just google an excerpt). I guarantee you that any excerpt you pick will resound with greatness and vivid language. This sentence, for example:
The first of December was a wintry day indeed to them, for a bitter wind blew, snow fell fast, and the year seemed getting ready for its death.
I rest my case with a final snippet from this wonderful book that has been treasured by generations. I love the irony of the final sentence, spoken by Amy. It makes me giggle.
“I don’t believe any of you suffer as I do,” cried Amy; “for you don’t have to go to school with impertinent girls, who plague you if you don’t know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label your father if he isn’t rich, and insult you when your nose isn’t nice.”
“If you mean libel, I’d say so, and not talk about labels, as if papa was a pickle-bottle,” advised Jo, laughing.
“I know what I mean, and you needn’t be statirical about it. It’s proper to use good words, and improve your vocabilary,” returned Amy, with dignity.