1.1 Background of This Research
Nowadays,especially in recent years,with the wide application of westernliterary theories,researchers try to analyze related works from different theoreticalperspectives.Little Women as a well-known American masterpiece,it has beenanalyzed from different perspectives.After looking up a large number of relevantliteratures,the author found that relevant researches on Little Women at home andabroad,particularly in the last ten years,have been focused on the following:feministresearch,feminist consciousness research,children’s growth research,psychoanalyticresearch,character image research,and social research.These studies,taken together,provide useful references for this thesis.
After reading some books and literatures on Initiation Story theory,the authorthinks that Little Women accords with the elements of Initiation Story and can be regarded as a female initiation story to study.At the same time,the following topics arethe focus of researches on the Initiation Story as a literary genre both at home andabroad:Historical research,Initiation Story theoretical research,cultural research,narrative research,post-colonial research,thematic research,pattern research,comparative research,religious research,and social research.
So far,this author hasn’t found any research on Little Women from the perspectiveof Initiation Story.Little Women is an easy-to-read novel about female growth.It tellsthe story of the growth of four daughters of the March family in New England duringthe Civil War.With the help of their parents,neighbors and friends,they have growninto self-reliant women.The feminist thoughts contained in this novel are still ofpositive significance to women in adversity in today.
1.2 Introduction to Louisa May Alcott and Little Women
Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29,1832 in Germantown,Pennsylvania,USA.She ranked second among the four sisters and was a bookworm.Her eldest sister liked acting.Her third sister was fond of playing the piano.Her fourthsister was obsessed with painting.Her father originated from Wolcott,Connecticut,andwas an educational reformer and a transcendentalist,and her mother was a socialworker among the Irish immigrants who descended from Samuel Sewall.Due todomestic poverty,Alcott did not receive a formal education.She and her sisters(exceptthe fourth daughter)were educated by her father.They also got instructions from herfather’s friends like Ralph Waldo Emerson,Nathaniel Hawthorne,Margaret Fuller,andJulia Ward Howe.Among these people,Margaret Fuller was a feminist and atranscendentalist.Julia Ward Howe was a prodigious poet,an abolitionist,and a socialactivist.Alcott’s mind was deeply influenced by them.
Before becoming a writer,Alcott worked as a teacher,a seamstress,a governess,and a domestic helper at a young age.The earliest literary work by her was FlowerFables(1849),which was a collection of tales.She also authored a lot of plays thatnever saw the light of day.She began writing for The Atlantic Monthly in 1860.Her first critical acclaim for her wit and observations came with the publication of HospitalSketches in 1863,which is based on her experiences during the Civil War.When Alcottreleased her first novel,Moods,in 1865,the focus seemed to fade.It did not take long,however,for the career to turn around.When Alcott returned to Boston following hertravels in Europe,she worked as the editor of the juvenile magazine Merry’s Museumand met Thomas Niles,who asked her to write a book,especially for girls.In 1868,Part I of Little Women was published,and it won readers’love and brought Alcott agoodly reward.In 1869,Part II of Little Women was published in the United States andrenamed Good Wives by the publisher in the United Kingdom.The big success of LittleWomen made the Alcott family have enough money to live comfortably.In 1880,thetwo parts of Little Women were combined into one book named Little Women.
Chapter TwoLITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Studies of Little Women at Home and Abroad
Alcott’s Little Women is regarded as one of the world’s best sellers and one of thebest family novels in the United States by the National Library.After more than onehundred and fifty years it still remains popular among teenagers and adults.This bookalso has been studied by many scholars and has been criticized from many aspects.This part interprets related research of this novel at home and abroad.
According to CNKI database,in recent ten years,relevant domestic researches onLittle Women are concentrated on the following:feminist research,feministconsciousness research,children’s growth research and character image research.
Some domestic scholars interpret Little Women from the perspective of feminism.Zhang Suxin analyzes the significance of the existence and absence of male charactersin Little Women based on the feminist theory.It is the weakening of masculinecharacters that enhances the female consciousness of the feminine characters.Thisanalysis indicates Little Women not only has the new literature value,but also has social significance beyond the development of the times.March girls’independentconsciousness and Mrs.March’s exemplary education in this novel provide a good rolemodel for women in today’s society(Zhang 1-39).Qiu Xinyuan explores how twofemale authors,i.e.,Edith Wharton and Louisa May Alcott who were active in theirwriting career in the nineteenth century,have treated the motif of femininedisestablishment in The House of Mirth and Little Women.This author finds that underthe surface of disempowerment,both authors have implied ladies’re-empowermentthat is achieved through their communication and collaboration in a variety of femalerituals under the rubrics of marriage,education and consumption.This is perceivablefrom the perspective of the female sphere,i.e.,a space that is occupied and shared bywomen as an entity and broader than the feminine sphere of the household.So,it canbe concluded that both authors have explored and supported women’s pursuit of powerin their novels.They have indicated possibilities and feasible ways for women’s re-establishment and hidden them under the surface of seeming disempowerment.Itdepends on a shift in the readers’perspective from the feminine sphere to the femalesphere to perceive such indications(Qiu 1-111).
2.2 Studies of Initiation Story at Home and Abroad
On the one hand,the content of the Initiation Story as a literary genre is all-inclusive,which means there are various approaches that can be used to analyze theinitiation stories.On the other hand,the Initiation Story can be employed for textanalysis.In this section,for the convenience of analysis,the researches at home andabroad on the Initiation Story are categorized into the following researches:historicalresearch,cultural research,thematic research,comparative research,social research,postcolonial research,Initiation Story theoretical research,narrative research,patternresearch,religious research,aesthetic research,and archetypal research.
According to CNKI database,the Initiation Story as a literary genre has onlyrecently been used for text analysis in China.Domestic researches on the genre of theInitiation Story are concentrated on the following:cultural research,Initiation Storytheoretical research,historical research,pattern research,thematic research,comparative research,religious research,social research,and aesthetic research.
Firstly,some domestic scholars analyze the genre of the Bildungsroman from theperspective of culture.In a paper published in the year of 2002,Sun Shengzhongselects four representatives of American Initiation Stories,such as Herman Melville’sMoby-Dick,Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,Stephen Crane’s TheRed Badge of Courage,and J.D.Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye as the texts.Thispaper examines these initiation stories in the larger cultural context of America andidentifies the developmental pattern of the plot of American Initiation Stories from theperspective of American ethnic spirit(Sun 263-275).
Chapter Three AN INTRODUCTION TO INITIATION STORYTHEORY...........................18
3.1 Definition of Initiation Story............................18
3.2 Origin and Development of Initiation Story...........................22
Chapter Four INITIATION MENTOR AND INITIATIONCOMPANION OF MARCH SISTERS..................35
4.1 Positive Initiation Mentor...........................................36
4.1.1 Mrs.March:Mr.March’s Spokesperson and an Important Mentor........37
4.1.2 Mr.Lawrence:a Serious,Warm-hearted,and Helpful Neighbor............43
Chapter Five INITIATION JOURNEY OF MARCH SISTERS.............51
5.1 Innocence Stage...............................52
5.1.1 Christmas Gifts for March Sisters...................................53
5.1.2“Castles in the Air”of March Sisters................................54
Chapter FiveINITIATION JOURNEY OF MARCH SISTERS
5.1 Innocence Stage
In the Initiation Story,the initiation protagonist’s initial characteristics areinnocence or even ignorance.This is also the logical starting point of the narrativestructure of the Initiation Story,and the prerequisite for the growth of the protagonist(Zhang 33).
5.1.1 Christmas Gifts for March Sisters
In Little Women,there are many aspects of the innocence of protagonists.Forexample,at the beginning of Little Women,the four March sisters felt that Christmaswas coming,and everyone was very happy to get what they wanted for Christmas,which was mostly the case in the past.Now,when Meg,the eldest daughter,explained the reason why her mother would not be giving Christmas presents thisyear,everyone sighed.Their father,Mr.March,suffered in the front line,and thefamily was not as good as before.The sensible sisters suddenly felt that it was also avery pleasant thing to stay with their beloved mother and enjoyed the warmth ofhome every day.They could play games at home and remembered the pilgrimagethey used to play at Christmas.Their ideal gifts this year were the following:theeldest daughter,Meg,wanted a beautiful dress;the second daughter,Jo,wanted tobuy a book called Undine and Sintram;the third daughter,Beth,wanted to get somenew music scores;and the fourth daughter,Amy,wanted to buy a nice box of Faber’sdrawing pencils.Although the four sisters did not get the gift they wanted,each ofthem still got a Christmas present,a little book named Pilgrim’s Progress.Thesimple idea that children would get presents for Christmas was satisfied.
Louisa May Alcott is a well-known female writer in the United States.Herrepresentative work Little Women describes the growth of the four March sisters.Little Women accords with the elements of the Initiation Story,so this book can beregarded as a female initiation story.It is reasonable to analyze this novel from theperspective of Initiation Story.This research not only enriches the literaryapproaches to Little Women and theoretical research on Initiation Story but also hassome realistic significance.
Little Women was about an initiation story of the March sisters.March sisterswere the four daughters of the March family living in New England.They haddifferent personalities,but they were all kind,honest,friendly,positive,and had theirspirit of self-improvement.Because of the war,the March sisters had to endure thehardships of life while their father left home.Under the guidance of Mrs.March,especially the moral education,they faced hardships,grew up optimistically,andbecame the self-reliant young women in the era.This novel has inspired femalegrowth from generation to generation.This thesis believes that analyzing LittleWomen from the perspective of Initiation Story will facilitate the female growth inmodern society.