"My sisters, don't be afraid of the words, 'old maid'" Demarginalizing the spinster in Louisa May Alcott

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Description: My work essentially revises the revisions of late twentieth century Alcott critics by examining Alcott's depiction of the spinster figure in three of Alcott's works. Despite the recently popular trend to situate Alcott's sensational characters such as Jean Muir from Behind a Mask; Or a Woman's Power and domestic heroines like Jo March from Little Women as foils to one another, my revision will focus on the correlations between these heroines. Alcott connects these heroines by illustrating their common fears of spinsterhood and choices to sacrifice their autonomy and self-expression in order to escape this marginalized fate. By depicting their similar lack of completeness as married women, Alcott exposed the need to revise both the exclusive tenets of true womanhood and the domestic genre's conventional adherence to these tenets. She attempted to fashion a positive identity for spinsters by suggesting that a causal relationship exists between a woman's ability to recognize her worth as a single woman and her realization of a useful, happy life. But, most importantly, through her attempts to revise the spinster figure, Alcott expresses her own desires to be a "spinsterly" writer, or in other words, an autonomous writer who challenged the mores of archetypal domestic fiction. Through each of her spinster figures' such as Jean's, Jo's, and finally Christie's (Work) challenging and sometimes unfulfilled search for personal fulfillment, we can witness Alcott's analogous evolution in literary spinsterhood. Eventually, Alcott's new true woman, whether heroine or writer, becomes unreadable by conventional domestic standards and, as a result, achieves an autonomous personal and authorial life.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work