The Real Tragedy of Beth March

Arden Henley
Friday 25 November 2022

Machado, Carmen Maria. The Paris Review, August 29, 2019. 

This article discusses the character Beth March in Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women as well as Alcott’s sister, on whom Beth is based. It highlights the contrast between the events of the novel–Beth’s quiet acceptance of her own mortality and her optimism in the face of illness–with the behavior of Alcott’s sister Lizzie, who was prone to fits of rage and had a sharp sense of dark humor. Author Carmen Maria Machado provides insight into Alcott’s synthesis of her own grief and trauma through fiction and her quest to find a sense of internal peace through writing.

This essay provides one example of how fiction and art can help us synthesize grief and trauma. Alcott was clearly traumatized by her sister’s early death, and this trauma interrupted her youth and sense of personal peace. Storytelling is an important tool in helping humans understand themselves and one another, and storytelling with the aim of creating personal peace is a powerful way to obtain that peace. We can learn from this article, and from the author it discusses, how art and fiction help us to understand the world around us and reconcile our place and the place of those we love within it.


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