Friday, 18 October 2013

Sounds of silence

Last time we met, I've introduced you to Jo March, my favorite „little woman“ at the moment. I'm saying „at the moment“ cause Jo wasn't always my favorite one. I first met „Little women“ somewhere between the bookshelves at the children's corner of the local public library when I was around 12. Even today I can't actually say what dragged me to that pinkish covered, frugally illustrated book. Probably, as with everything else we care about most later, it was accidentally.
            However, shortly after that first encounter with March sister, I got a school assignment to create an interview with my favorite fictional character. My choice was Elizabeth „Beth“ March, the most silent of the four March sisters, loving caretaker of the family whose time, except in family care, passed by in reading prayer books, joyful playing with her kittens and reproducing beautiful tones on her piano.

            It's funny how memories of the most silent of the sisters evoke the most sounds; voices of beggar children gathered around her window, meowing of her kittens, beautiful music created on her piano and, at last, sound of silence. You must wonder where did this leap from Beth to Jo come from. Sparkling older sister, turned to books and reading; and younger, unobtrusive sister, sheltered in her own, family-centered, small and humble world, have a little in common. Still, I believe we develop sympathies, as well as hostility, towards people or fiction characters reciprocaly to the size of piece of ourselves we find in it. Twelve-year old girl, a litle bit introverted, always with a book in her hand and suspicion to the outter world on her mind, felt comfortable „being Beth“ but a young woman that girl formed into is full of life and energy, creating her place on this world and doesn't believe in obstacles, just the way Jo didn't. If you wonder what kind of person Beth grew up in, the sad answer is she didn't. As „Little women“ readers, as well as TV-show Friends fans among you remember, Beth leaves this world at very young age (and Joey, as always when he is scared, puts the book in the freezer).

                                   Beth is really, really sick :(

            What would Beth be like if she had a chance to create an adult version of herself? Maybe she'd become famous pianist or her dreams would take her to fashion and design industry. First, and most important question is if she'd even leave her parents' house or would her decision be to stay and take care of her mother and father, loyally and until the very end. Young Beth March, the way we meet her at Alcott's novel, is a representative of femininity concept, highly popular in 19th century literature, known under the term angel in the house, a perfect woman, patient and mildly tempered, simple and self-effacing nature, good house ghost in feminine form. Some of their main characteristics are strong feeling for family needs, especially husband's and, proportionally to that, supressing their own needs.

            Some might think (I admit I have at first) that those women pay no attention to their clothes, physical appearance or what they're wearing. But we'd be wrong. Their devotion to please their husbands and families, as well as their self-effacing characters, overflow to the selection of clothes they're wearing, pleasing for the eye, harmonious but never showy or impressive. Since most of their time angels in the house are occupied by housekeeping and family caring, one of the questions is when do they find the time to renew their wardrobes? In Beth's time it was much simpler, when the need for a new gown occured, you could visit a tailoring salon, probably the one nearest to your home and order it. Or, for the lack of time or finances, visit the local store with premade dresses and pick one. But nowdays...In my imagination, angel in the house is hidden in one of the nicely dressed madams who walk around the mall, hand in hand with their husbands or joyfully chatting with their daughters wile they are window shopping. Those women never pick clothes on their own; how would they know what would fit the needs and ideas of their beloved ones? „Angels“ living outside the big town centers and without mall at their sight have probably discovered and experienced the joys, secrets and traps of internet shopping. That is one of the reasons „angels“ bloomed in  Croatia after it entered European Union, since now there is a wider range of possibilities infront of them, sometimes even at lower rates. Last but not the least, brand chosing. Honestly, I don't think they care about it as long as the clothes are nice, fit and make a good cost-benefit effect.
            I know you'll find this combination stereotypical (I was aware of it even as I created it) but I can't help it. In my imagination, perfect angel in the house wears exactly something like this, inconspicious A-cut dress, always with a collar and pearl or similar necklace. Her hair is left down but perfectly combed with pulled out ends. Entire hairstyle is perfectly smooth and fixed with a riboon in matching, inconspicious color.

            Would modern Beth become angel in the house or would life take her elsewhere? In the world of Little women she never grew up and formed completely, but in my imagination Beth became strong and self-concious young woman, not entirely in her sister Jo's manner but confident enough to make her own choices and to stand up for helself. Even though all of the sisters have already left home, Beth decides to stay for a while and take care of her parents, but in time starts feeling the need for independence and self-realization and, with parents' encouragement and blessing, decides to create a place of her own. Her first decision is to continue her education and she starts taking evening courses in sewing (let's not forget Beth was the first one among the sisters to leave school and committs completely to caretaking for the family). Sewing is, alongside playing the piano, one of the passions marking Beth's new life. Behind sewing machine she feels relaxed and calm, especially while creating the clothes for the others (naturally, sometimes she creates something nice for herself but it is in her nature to take care for the others first) and playing the piano helps her get rid of her shyness and collect the courage to show her real self to the world.            
            Her wardrobe follows that order. During the day Beth prefers neutral,  brown and warm, earthy tones, trying not to pop-up in the mass. I was lucky enough to find the original costume, the dress that Jean Parker wore in 1935. version of „Little women“  and to create this outfit around it, the outfit which stars „Vintage Visetos“ school bag as well. I imagine Beth got it during one of her walks trough the flea market, a place that probably inspires her for some of the clothes she creates. I believe bag was a gift to herself after a well-done job or, perhaps, a very profitable order. All of her daily combinations are probably in the same tone, I can't picture Beth as being a person who shops with a plan but rather doing it when she finds something she likes or finds appropriate for her wardrobe.

            Evening combinations are quite the opposite, still pretty „vintage-y“ but much bolder. She wears those only for occasional visits to the theater with Jo, or in occasions like those when she sits infront of her piano and leaves selected company of her friends and family breathless with beautiful tones that slip so easily from her fingers to the piano keys. Lately she has almost completely overcome her shyness and performing in public is not causing her headache, dizziness or that weird and ackward feeling in the stomach but she rather dresses herself up and causes astonishment, not only by her music. When asked, she'll often say that music is the screen she can leave all her fears and uncertainities behind and present herself to the world in the way she really is, beuatiful and talented young woman. Her evening outfits evoke romance and times passed, combining beautiful, mostly satin, dresses, her hair lifted in a bun or combed and fixed with vintage combs, with small, tasteful earrings as only piece of jewellery.

            Would Beth form like this in Alcott's world as well? I'm not very convinced but it can't stop me (and neither should it stop you) to create her a world and destiny fitting my ideas. In my world she is brave enough to try out in what she likes but remaining humble, self-effacing and devoted to her family. I don't see her as a married woman and a mother of two, but I do feel like, by caring for her parents and remaining in good realtions with her sisters (and later with love she felt for her nephews) what could have been a big whole became a place full of joy and that Beth had a successfull and fullfilled life.
            And what about you? Have you ever wondered what would happen to Beth if she got the chance and, if you had, what was your ending? I'm looking forward to reading your comments, wish you a lot of interesting pages and, with a promise I'll soon write again, I leave you in (I hope) the best possible company.


P.S."Sounds of silence" is dedicated to my beloved grandmother, we laid her to eternal rest yesterday but I'll keep her in my mind and heart forever. Alongside this post, I'd like to dedicate to her this beautiful song


  1. Hi Petra! So glad you are back with another post on the March sisters!
    The portrait you depicted of poor Beth is very accurate, the term "Angel of the house" is perfect to describe her attitute towards the care for the family and unity of the affections. She's probably the most "Victorian" little woman in the book, quiet and obedient. The clothes you chose for her are lovely, I can picture the old actress wearing a modern tea dress with peter pan collar and ribbons in her hair. Obviously her style would be romantic and feminine and not fashionable at all.
    Thank you for this post, it was interesting and also thank you for showing the original dress, I had completely forgotten it :)
    Have a nice week end dear friend,


  2. Dear Arianna, it is always a pleasure to hear from you :) I'm glad you liked the post, kind of thought you'd like my Beth. Amy is next in line and then I'm moving to some modern literature candies I've prepared.
    Hope you'll feel better soon :*

  3. oh I really enjoy reading your articles!♥ I'm in love with the evening combinations and the collage you made!:) and thank you so much for your sweet comment, I haven't seen the show "Girls" yet! I'll google it!:D♥

    1. Please, let me know what you think of the show if you manage to watch an episode or two...or maybe the whole season :)

  4. You know, I never ready Little Women? My mother bought me Little Men, and I have been meaning to read it. However your portrayal of Beth makes me feel like I know her. I love the 2nd outfit you styled.

    I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother. Loosing loved ones is indescribable.

    1. Thank you for your condolance, you are very sweet.
      I hope you'll read Little men, they are a very nice and warm story as well and I'm very glad my portrait of Beth was so lively you were able to feel familiar with her.


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