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A Story of Experience
A Story of Experience is written by Louisa May Alcott in which she is shedding a light on one of the main characters of the novel "Christie Devon". The characterization of Christie Devon is very largely based on Alcott's personal characteristics and her endeavors in the working world in order to support her family financially. It depicts the struggles of the women during and post-war and their ability to emerge successful and stronger than before. The personality traits were some of the primary focus of Alcott's theme as she wanted to portray through fiction what she thought she could never turn into reality in her own lifetime. Superficially, it seems like a classic tale of a typical "coming of age story" where a hero takes charge, gains maturity and comes to the other end a stable and responsible individual with grace and morality. The only difference is that the hero in this story is a woman. Christie is depicted as an assertive and unpredictable individual; who comes from a rural background and makes her mark in the urban world after facing a lot of challenges (Greene, pp. 35).
The Civil War had changed women's lives because men had to go to the war, and women had to take their places in households and the public sphere. Alcott in her novel, Work: "A Story of Experience" wants to show us how hard it was for women to show men that they can be equal to them. The main character Christie is a good example of a talented woman who lived in mid-1800, but there were thousands of them who were talented and wanted to be successful. “Christie was among the large group of women who were brilliant, earnest and true-hearted. They were driven by necessity and principle to go out into the world to find support, happiness, and homes for themselves” (Alcott, pg. 8). We all want to be someone important in our society. We love our parents and want to show them that they can be proud of us one day. So does Christie, she leaves her Uncle’s house to live a better life than her mom had. Her mother had to go for teaching; and met a financially poor person whom she ended up loving and marrying. After few years of unaffected happiness, which even poverty could not hinder, the parents died leaving young Christie in care of her own brother (pg.8). Christie Devon announced her freedom when she turns twenty-one.
Taking a look at this novel it could be seen that she dabbled in many professions. In this novel, the depiction of Christie is showed in various careers that she opts during her life. Taking into account the effects of the Civil War years, doing a domestic job doesn’t give her an opportunity to form many friendships. In the future, for example, she meets Hepsey who does the domestic job for a long time and she doesn’t make any changes in her life and her future. Hepsey works with Christie as a servant. (pg.14). It won’t be wrong to say that she left her uncle and aunt with utterly impossible plans. She was very happy but with the advancement of time, she came to realize the harsh realities of life that actually collapsed her bright bubble. She picked several careers as it could be seen that after serving as a servant she worked as an actress and came to know about the pathetic thinking of males who were working with her in the film industry. She later served as a governess, companion, and then she worked as a companion seamstress and she also served as an army nurse once in her life. She had many dreams in the beginning but went through the great and harsh experiences in her life that revealed the real image of the world.
Christie has been portrayed as a character that gets bored with her job and wants to explore a new job every so often. It could be seen that Mr. Sharp makes a disturbing assessment about Christie’s body as according to him she is weak. "Me too" is being depicted as Mr. sharp is the one who decided the future of the actresses that worked with him. It could be claimed that from these lines Alcott is trying to point towards the future and it could be assumed that it was the era when women were not given liberty as Christie wishes for a better future for women and her own daughter in the final few chapters.
Since Christie always wanted to have innovation and change in her life. She got married in search of a companion and peace. It could be seen that in marrying David she learned how to stay hopeful. David encouraged her to see other’s hardships and by doing so her own hardships looked little in comparison. However, it is felt that there was a lack of exploration when it came to the marriage between Christie and David. Even though their relationship was a beautiful transition from a great friendship to being partners, due to lack of personal experience, Alcott never fully elaborated that a long-lasting companionate marriage could ever exist.
Being a woman she was finding it difficult to get involved with one job that would satisfy her. It was David's home where she got a few of the basic experiences of her life. This novel sheds light on the realistic side of life. Christie being a female experienced one of the most pleasant experiences as David's wife who taught and supported her a lot and it helped her change her perception about life. Christie herself was a very caring and sensitive girl and it reflected when at the greenhouse with David she says that “I always think of them as pretty, modest maids after that and can’t bear to throw them away, even when faded” (Alcott, pp. 84). In the last few chapters, Christie's character is seen as a forty-year-old woman who is the widow of David and gives her first speech in public since she left the stage, where she says she finally found her independence, education, happiness, and religion through her endeavors (pg.216).
Louisa Alcott in her novel shows readers that women are strong and can attain peace in their lives through education and courage. Even feminism as a theme is seen throughout the work, the final chapter is the final work of glory where feminism appears to come full circle. As Alcott clearly stresses on a life of meaning and purpose for women; both domestic and professional; we see in the final chapter that Christie finally finds a blend of purposeful life where she is able to take care of her child Ruth as a form of redemption as well as a source of nurturing to breed a generation of stronger independent women. It is also portrayed as a source of domestic bliss. The novel reveals the reality of life and is making a gesture that woman’s life has been changed after the war. So as a whole it could be said that it was a time to celebrate the changes that emerged in ways of rural life. The women were living in certain defined limits; a narrow way for generations was being shaped by society. Civil War changed this fixed norm and shook foundations of the role of women in the family and at the workplace.
Alcott, Louisa May. Work: A story of experience. Penguin, 1994.
Greene, Jessica Brook. "A Woman's Legacy: An Analysis of Feminist Themes in the Work of Louisa May Alcott." (2000).
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