Little Women: Jo and Friedrich On Education

Niina Pekantytär

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I have been reading the biography of Charles Follen for the Little Women podcast. Charles was a German immigrant who immigrated to the United States and became one of the early figures of transcendentalism and became friends with Louisa May Alcott´s uncle Samuel May.

Charles married American female writer Eliza (get it… German immigrant professor and an American female writer!) After Charles passed away Eliza wrote a book about him and Louisa read it (for the first time) when she was 12 years old. A man called Colonel Perkins sent his two nephews to Charles and Eliza believing that they could get the boys excited about school ..and it seems to have worked. This really reminded me of the way Jo and Fritz have similar goals about boys education in Plumfield

.“From the time I undertook the care of the boys, I endeavoured to make myself thoroughly acquainted with the character, the capacity, and the attainments of each, and to regulate my mode of instruction and discipline accordingly. I had first counteracted the effects of a system, under which the two older boys had acquired a strong distaste for study, and a want of confidence in their instructor. I believe Mrs Follen and myself have succeeded in gaining the confidence of the boys, to a higher degree, than we could have expected in a much longer time. We have, I hope, implanted in them a contempt for all manner of concealment, by imposing only such rules as their own moral sense approved, and enforcing them with undeviating justice; by a ready sympathy with all their concerns and wants and a hearty desire t gratify all their legitimate and innocent desires. I was aware that to some, this mode of treating the boys might seem too indulgent: but I believe the experience has already shown that it was the only course of discipline that could secure ready obedience to the few essential rules, which I had laid down and truly filial confidence on the part f the boys,” C.F.

There are so many boys in Louisa´s novel who dislike school and definitely need some discipline (Tommy Banks, Laurie). It does remind me of Louisa´s dreams she had to start a school with Henry, her adoration for boys and the ways he was always promoting education.

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Folklorist and historian. Alcott essayist. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

Finland, MN
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