Literary Analyses

Madeleine B. Stern’s Brilliant Analysis of Little Women

Louisa May Alcott: A Biography by Madeleine B. Stern (1999) is considered the definitive biography of the famous author of Little Women (1868). Presented here is Stern’s brilliant analysis of Little Women.

Tracing the life of Louisa May Alcott (1832 – 1888) the writer, Stern gives penetrating insight not only into Alcott’s life, but her very essence as a writer.

As a writer myself, I have found much wisdom in these pages and have marveled at Alcott’s ability to “simmer a story” in her head while fulfilling duties around the house, and then later sitting down to spill it out on paper to submit without editing.

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Drinking from the Spring: On Rereading Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

The last day of October marks Samhain, the end of harvest season and the beginning of winter. This Gaelic festival opens the door to the darker part of the year, and it’s also the anniversary of author Natalie Babbitt’s death in 2016. What better time to consider Babbitt’s remarkable novel about mortality, Tuck Everlasting (1975), a story that rewards young and adult readers alike.

When I first reread Tuck, I was in my thirties. It was never one of my school texts: when I was a girl, it hadn’t yet achieved its iconic status. But the timing for me to rediscover this story, about how “dying’s part of the wheel, right there next to being born” was perfect. Read More→


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Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans (1925)

In 1925, Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family’s Progress was published, though the author had finished it many years earlier. It was quite a task to find a publisher for it, and so it languished until the inscrutable author had her first major commercial success with The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas — a memoir that Gertrude Stein (1874 – 1946) not Alice, had actually written.

The Making of Americans is considered a modernist novel covering the history, progress, and genealogy of the fictional Herlsand and Dehning families. It’s written in Stein’s inimitable and experimental style, one that requires much patience, as it is steeped in excruciating detail and heavy repetition. In a March 1934 review of The Making of Americans in The Capital Times, the critic captures the difficulties and pleasures of the novel: Read More→


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Shirley by Charlotte Brontë (1849): A plot summary

Shirley was the second published novel by Charlotte Brontë. Published in 1849 under the pseudonym Currer Bell, the author had already become famous with the success of Jane Eyre (1847). While Charlotte was at work on this book, her remaining siblings died. The first to go was her troubled brother Branwell, followed by sisters Emily and Anne, who would also come to be celebrated for their literary accomplishments.

The lengthy novel has two female protagonists — the eponymous Shirley Keeldar, as well as Caroline Helstone. Set in Charlotte’s native Yorkshire, it takes place against the background of the textile industry’s Luddite uprisings of 1811 and 1812.

Shirley: A Tale, as it was originally titled, is considered an example of the mid-19th century “social novel.” The social novels that emerged from that period were works of fiction dealing with themes like labor injustice, bias against women, and poverty. Read More→


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The Professor by Charlotte Brontë: A 19th Century Analysis

Though Jane Eyre was Charlotte Brontë‘s first published novel, The Professor was actually the first novel she completed. It wasn’t published until 1857, two years after her death, with her literary reputation secured.

The resounding failure of a book of poems she produced with sisters Emily and Anne in 1846 didn’t stop Charlotte from spearheading an effort to find a publisher for the novels that they had been working on. They continued to use the assumed masculine names that appeared on their book of poetry. They  styled themselves as Currer Bell (Charlotte), Ellis Bell (Emily), and Acton Bell (Anne). Read More→


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