A Brief Look at Louisa May Alcott

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We can see that Louisa May Alcott in every way was shaped, moulded and influenced by transcendentalism. The ‘big men’ around her, Emerson, Thoreau, Lane, but predominantly her own father, taught her how to be a second generation transcendentalist. Mr Alcott cocooned her into his ‘slice of the planet’ and she soon lived her life as a vegan, writing a journal and living on a self-sufficient farm. However she felt a conflicting response to her father’s and his friends’ transcendental beliefs and Alcott found herself torn between many aspects of their beliefs. She struggled most of all with the conflict between her position as a transcendentalist and a member of American society as she discovered it was crucial to acknowledge both. This tension is what created most of her attitudes which then transcended into her literature. Alcott grew up being influenced by Emerson and Fuller’s understanding of self-reliance. This, as well as her father’s teaching, encouraged Alcott to grow into a woman who believed that she had great strength as an individual. However she was aware that beyond every individual sphere was an outer society that was hard to ignore. She had seen the effect of society when it opposed her father’s teaching methods and caused his school to close. Similarly, she felt it shutting down her chances of becoming a successful woman writer who sought to create works of genius. She noticed that with every individual idea, there was a chorus of society stopping it from

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