Little Women was one of last year’s most acclaimed films. But, wrote Charlotte Allen in the Wall Street Journal, the film misses one of the key themes of Louisa May Alcott’s original novel: namely, religion.
The novel was a spiritual journey in which each of the March sisters struggles with their besetting sins. Indeed, the book would have been a dreary piece of sermonising without Alcott’s storytelling gifts.
The film includes Mrs “Marmee” March’s admission that she is “angry nearly every day of my life”, but omits her advice to her daughter to entrust herself and her faults to “the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father”. The mother also gives her daughters copies of the Gospels.
The film “has many virtues”, Allen concluded. “But it is not the Little Women that Louisa May Alcott wrote: a tale of delightful, fun-loving young girls who learn through folly, disappointment, sorrow and moral reckoning that their lives are actually pilgrimages to the Celestial City.”
The curious case of the St Basil quotation
At First Things, Michael Pakaluk looked at a claim made by the theologian David Bentley Hart. Hart says that St Basil “once observed that, in his time, a large majority of his fellow Christians (at least, in the Greek-speaking Eastern Christian world that he knew) believed that hell was not everlasting, and that all in the end would attain salvation.”
Hart’s claim appears “on the first page of his new book and is the lead statement on the inside flap”. It’s prominent on the book’s Amazon page, and Hart repeated it in the New York Times.
However, Pakaluk wrote, this misrepresents Basil’s words. He actually says that “it is the Devil’s artifice to make it so that the many … sign on to the view that there is an end to the punishment”.
In other words, Basil was condemning this view – and attributing it to “the many”, a word he uses elsewhere to mean something like “humankind considered apart from the Gospel and its grace”. Moreover, Basil goes on to argue against the view Hart cites.
“After all,” Basil writes, “if at some future point there will be an end of everlasting punishment, then surely everlasting life, too, will have an end. But if, in the case of life, we do not allow this to be thought, what sort of reason could there be for gratuitously assigning an end to the everlasting punishment?”
A silent suffering calls for help from us all
“It can be tempting,” wrote Matthew Moore at One Peter Five, “to be caught up with problems about which we can do precious little.” But there is a “silent suffering” which we can do something about.
That suffering, which affects so many but is rarely spoken about, is the loss of a child through miscarriage.
“Far more women (and their husbands) have suffered in silence from this terrible plague than many realise,” Moore wrote. “It affects about 15-20 per cent of American women.”
There were Catholic counselling services – but they were not the only means of help. “We forget that often, the greatest form of evangelisation is simply being present to someone as they grieve.”