Women’s Circles Broken: Thesis Introduction

         I’m back! After five months of silence, I have finally finished my graduate thesis. I am publishing the introduction here on my blog for those of you interested in reading what has consumed my time for the past year. I may eventually publish the entire thesis in installments. The full title is: “Women’s Circles Broken: The Disruption of Sisterhood in Three Nineteenth-Century Works,” and I am writing specifically about Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, and the poem “Goblin Market.” This is definitely an academic paper and not the most riveting reading material, but for those of you brave enough to read on, enjoy! 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” (Austen 11). If rich men must go wife-hunting, then the women presumably are lucky to get them, spending their time scrambling and fighting to beat out the competition and become the chosen wife. However, Jane Austen and other nineteen-century women authors such as Louisa May Alcott and Christina Rossetti saw the truth played out in the society around them. Of course, on the surface, the frantic search for wealthy husbands was reality; women were trained to become wives. Since women had such limited opportunities available to them, marriage was the most viable option for survival. An interesting connection found, though, among the literature written by women at the time is the way in which women thrive together in communities with each other—up until the men enter the scene. Many women are extremely unhappy after marriage and mourn the loss of community they had shared with their sisters. Once the men, or more commonly, one man who is also the future husband, disrupt these women-centered communities, the close bond among women is severed.

Three works of literature sharing this similarity are Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, early in the nineteenth century, when many people had yet to question the societal relegation of the “woman’s place” to the home. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, when Rossetti published “Goblin Market” in 1862 and Alcott published Little Women in 1868, there was already an early push for women’s suffrage in both the United States and England. These three authors realized that women should have more options than marriage—although even they could not quite visualize what these options could be. What they longed for was a way for women to retain sisterhood after marriage instead of leaving it behind completely and to be allowed a place in the public sphere. They could see this better option, a supportive sisterhood—safe, loving, and uninterrupted. How and why did women thrive together in these three fictional nineteenth-century communities? How did they communicate? In what spaces did these communities exist? In what ways did men disrupt these communities, and was it possible for women to regain a similar level of closeness with each other after the disruption of men (i.e. marriage)? Some answers to these questions will become clear as this thesis looks at the various viewpoints and treatments each author brought to women’s communities, their importance, formation, and men’s intrusions upon them.

In each of the works discussed, one female character is affected most particularly by the male disruption. For Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, one of the most obvious instances of male intrusion occurs when Mr. Collins takes her dear friend Charlotte away from her. The loss of their friendship and intimacy deeply affects Elizabeth. Jo March in Little Women quite nearly despises the man who marries her older sister Meg and removes her from the cherished community of sisters, and after Laura eats the fruit offered to her in the poem “Goblin Market,” she drifts away from her sister Lizzie and moves swiftly toward death. Consequently, Lizzie is also deeply affected when she must discover a way to save her sister’s life. All of these characters navigate a world that shifts drastically with the entrance of men—and in the case of both novels, the changes brought by marriage.

The two novels use realism to illustrate aspects of female utopian spaces, relationships, and struggles, while by the end of the poem, Lizzie and Laura exist in a true female utopia—a world devoid of men and devoted to sisterhood. Coming hand-in-hand with the nearly inevitable event of marriage in women’s lives was the fact that they would be forced to leave these female utopias for the worlds mostly inhabited and controlled by men. In these writings by nineteenth-century women, women consistently pursue a space free from the overwhelming presence and power of men. Because of the transplants caused by marriage, these women constantly seek communities of women, new utopias and places of refuge with their own ways of communicating with each other that are often vastly different from dominant male forms of communication.

These women’s communities have been viewed as utopian alternatives to the patriarchal societies around them. The word “utopia” was created in 1516 when Sir Thomas More wrote the novel of the same name. He took it from the Greek word ou-topos for “nowhere” or “no place,” but the extremely similar eu-topos also means a good place. It is within this in-between area where women exist in these works of literature—the space between nowhere and a good place. The word “utopia” commonly connotes perfection and unity, but these women’s utopias do not quite fit this definition. The utopias they create are not recognized by the patriarchal society, and because of this, the women’s utopias are much closer to More’s original definition of “nowhere.” Where men often gather in large, boisterous groups, women gather in small, private spaces. From the parlor to written letters, the places and ways in which women communicate differ drastically from those of men.

In a search for a space away from men’s authority, women create their own. Many of these spaces are unique from their male-dominated counterparts. For example, the women in these works claim letter-writing as a space distinctively theirs. While not usually viewed as a literal “space,” letters create a location wherein women share their true, hidden thoughts and feelings with each other, free from the prying eyes of their husbands. Letters act as a private space for sharing intimate details about life, love, frustration, and loneliness—but also a space for sharing joyful news and encouragement. Writing and story-telling feature heavily in relationships among women—not only through their letters but through journals and stories repeated around the fireplace, in the drawing room, the kitchen, and other places women make their own.

In Space, Place, and Gender, Doreen Massey discusses the important roles that literal and metaphorical spaces and places play in women’s lives—specifically in the nineteenth century. Massey argues that critics should think “of social space in terms of the articulation of social relations which necessarily have a spatial form in their interactions with one another” (Massey 120). A few lines later, she elaborates:

Thinking of places in this way implies that they are not so much bounded areas as open and porous networks of social relations . . . It reinforces the idea, moreover, that those identities will be multiple (since the various social groups in a place will be differently located in relation to the overall complexity of social relations and since their reading of those relations and what they make of them will also be distinct). And this in turn implies that which is to be the dominant image of any place will be a matter of contestation and will change over time. (Massey 121)

Women construct their identities within literal and metaphorical spaces in these three works—most commonly the home or “private sphere.” However, as Massey explains, the women themselves also have varying definitions of identity as it compares to specific places. Women do not define their identities based solely on the spaces they inhabit; rather, the ways in which they choose to use certain spaces confer identity on the spaces themselves. In this mutual transferal of identity, almost any space available to women can be transformed into a female utopia, giving women a type of power all their own.

Massey also writes that “it is necessary to understand … gender relations as significant in the structuring of space and place, spaces and places” (Massey 182). By focusing on how women affect the spaces they inhabit, it becomes clear that they construct them differently from male spaces and specifically for themselves. For Massey, “It means that spatiality cannot be analysed through the medium of a male body and heterosexual male experience, but without recognizing these as important and highly specific characteristics, and then generalized to people at large” (Massey 182). Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and “Goblin Market” were all born out of strict patriarchal societies, but the characters within them seek and discover ways of defining spaces and meaning without men. Further discussion of specific characters’ definitions of space and identity will be found in each chapter.

When reading and writing about relationships among women, it can be easy to come to the incomplete assumption that all women seek to be united together on common ground; and while that is true in one sense, there are multiple dimensions to women’s connections. Women in the nineteenth century were most often drawn together in their struggle for a place to call their own where their voices could be heard, but their methods of creating spaces were as diverse as their personalities. One critic, Helena Michie, coined her own term for describing one aspect of communication among women. In her book, Sororophobia Differences Among Women in Literature and Culture, she makes continual use of the title word “sororophobia,” which “attempts to describe the negotiation of sameness and difference, identity and separation, between women of the same generation, and is meant to encompass both the desire for and the recoil from identification with other women” (Michie 9).  It is this simultaneous longing and withdrawal from sameness that gives rise to many elements of women’s communication. In the three works discussed here, it becomes clear that women are different even within the same families, and it is often these dialogues among sisters and friends that drive the plots nearly as much as the impending marriages and disruptions by men.

Patricia Meyer Spacks writes in The Female Imagination that “Pride and Prejudice centers on marriage. In the society it depicts, marriage measures a woman’s success; mothers value themselves for marrying off their daughters; girls value themselves and are valued for their ability to attract and hold eligible men” (Spacks 148). In “Goblin Market,” there is a definite underlying theme of the girls preparing themselves for marriage. With so much emphasis placed on becoming “marriageable,” it is no wonder that it factors into the women’s communities. However, as we will see, marriage was not the sole focus of women’s lives. Even in the phase of “waiting” for men to arrive, the women—and especially sisters—in these works of literature create alternate, often utopian spaces for themselves. Each work discussed here displays varying differences in women’s communication, their level of closeness before and after marriage, the places they could call their own, and the ways in which they viewed impending marriages and probable separation from each other.

It has been argued that the communities of women in both novels are brought more closely together through difficulties that arise from the “lack” of men in their lives. Nina Auerbach writes in Communities of Women that “throughout Austen’s completed novels, women lead a purgatorial existence together … their lives are presented through an avoidance of detailed presentation as unshaped, unreal, a limbo” until men enter the scene (Auerbach 47-48). This statement simplifies the complexities that women’s communities can achieve. While it is true to some extent that the women in these stories exist in a culture of waiting and training until marriage becomes a possibility—until marriage ends the communities they have built together, their communities are not “purgatorial” as Auerbach claims. Rather, these communities are fragile and always at risk of disruption or dissolution caused by marriage. The clearest example of this can be found in the Bennet sisters, who exist in a close family unit until the marriageable men arrive in town.

          Pride and Prejudice specifically has been labeled a marriage novel. At first glance, the entire plot is moved forward by impending marriages. The first sentence itself seems to focus readers on the fact that all rich single men are searching for wives, but there is much more going on under the surface. Austen’s language here can also be read with sarcasm; rich men do not actually need wives because they are rich men, but their culture demands marriage. However, even though the plot does lead to marriages, the bulk of the novel is centered on women’s communities. Readers see the social aspects of balls and dinners and whispered conversations among women, but we also see Elizabeth Bennett strategically avoiding a marriage with Mr. Collins. For her, marriage is more than simply security, and she refuses to settle for a life with a man who would make her miserable.

Austen, Alcott, and Rossetti each had significant relationships with their sisters in one way or another. Most famously, Alcott’s novel is based on her childhood with her sisters, and Austen’s close relationship with her sister Cassandra has also been widely speculated upon and discussed. Rossetti’s tumultuous relationship with her sister is not as well known but influential all the same. For better or for worse, these sisterly relationships had a lasting impact on what and how these three authors wrote. Another significant similarity shared among the three authors is that they all chose to remain single. In a time when nearly all women married out of necessity, the fact that these three were unmarried is meaningful. It has become increasingly common to avoid authorial biography when writing about literature, but the strong parallels in this case create a space for inclusion and justification of biographical details. While biographical analysis will not feature heavily in this paper, each author had strong bonds with at least one sister and remained unmarried—common life experiences that are too important to omit.

All three authors knew one thing in particular that appears often in their writing: women create communities when they are together. They can transform unlikely spaces into female communities to strengthen and support each other. In these works of literature, the heroines struggle with the disruption and subsequent loss of these support systems most often through men and marriage. The characters we will discuss and befriend in these pages do not hate men, but they love their sisters more. The communities they create are not in opposition to male communities, but they are essential for women to function and thrive. for It is their resilient spirits that draw readers back to Elizabeth Bennet and Jo March centuries later. Lizzie’s devotion to Laura in her defeat of the goblin men is magnetic—it pulls us into the poem and challenges us to see beyond the words on the page. Nineteenth-century women’s communities are ephemeral, but even their weaknesses produce strength among women, binding them tightly together until the disruption of marriage and oftentimes continuing after marriage. These communities are spaces where women define and claim identities, challenge, and support each other. When women are forbidden to enter the public sphere, they create better spaces for themselves which are not defined by men—spaces that allow perseverance and rebuild community. For a first look at this type of strength found in women’s communities, we turn to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

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When We Forget to Rest

What do Louisa May Alcott and Little Women, Jane Austen and Northanger Abbey, and sixteenth-century author Margaret Cavendish all have in common? If you answered that they are all authors, you’re correct. If you have no idea, that’s also perfectly acceptable; I didn’t know who Cavendish was until two months ago. These three authors are the topics of my first three graduate school seminar papers. With a minimum of 15 pages required for each paper, I currently feel as though I have emptied my mind of every intelligent-sounding argument, and words are becoming increasingly difficult to string together coherently. How long is too long to stare at a blinking cursor while trying to come up with just four more pages or remember a synonym for “opposite”?

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It is during these times of mental exhaustion when I’m reminded that my life isn’t being graded. If it were, God knows that most days I’d barely be passing. It is incredibly easy to fall into the trap of perfectionism—to think that one mistake equals instant failure, to fear the future, and obsess over each stressful detail as though it were all-important. But this is not how we’re called to live.

The Bible says in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV). I don’t know about you, but I crave that peace even as I cram my busy life so full that I wouldn’t recognize peace if it showed up on my doorstep with a chick flick and a carton of mint chip ice cream.

So, if you’re overwhelmed by a stack of unfinished tasks and all the holiday shopping still to be done or dreading those stressful family gatherings, take a moment to breathe. Pray. Say thank you. And pause to recognize the peace that is truly available to us in every instant if we’re paying attention–and if we’re willing to rest.

 

“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile”

fall

I haven’t had the chance to write a blog post this month. Grad school reading and academic papers have filled my time, but I wanted to share some more poems. I shared springtime poems earlier this year, and I can’t neglect these beautiful descriptions of autumn–the season that William Cullen Bryant perfectly described as “the year’s last, loveliest smile.” Enjoy!

GOD’S WORLD
By Edna St. Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush!   To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

autumn-forest

AUTUMN WOODS
By William Cullen Bryant

           Ere, in the northern gale,
The summer tresses of the trees are gone,
The woods of Autumn, all around our vale,
Have put their glory on.

The mountains that infold,
In their wide sweep, the coloured landscape round,
Seem groups of giant kings, in purple and gold,
That guard the enchanted ground.

I roam the woods that crown
The upland, where the mingled splendours glow,
Where the gay company of trees look down
On the green fields below.

My steps are not alone
In these bright walks; the sweet south-west, at play,
Flies, rustling, where the painted leaves are strown
Along the winding way.

And far in heaven, the while,
The sun, that sends that gale to wander here,
Pours out on the fair earth his quiet smile,—
The sweetest of the year.

Where now the solemn shade,
Verdure and gloom where many branches meet;
So grateful, when the noon of summer made
The valleys sick with heat?

Let in through all the trees[Page 72]
Come the strange rays; the forest depths are bright?
Their sunny-coloured foliage, in the breeze,
Twinkles, like beams of light.

The rivulet, late unseen,
Where bickering through the shrubs its waters run,
Shines with the image of its golden screen,
And glimmerings of the sun.

But ‘neath yon crimson tree,
Lover to listening maid might breathe his flame,
Nor mark, within its roseate canopy,
Her blush of maiden shame.

Oh, Autumn! why so soon
Depart the hues that make thy forests glad;
Thy gentle wind and thy fair sunny noon,
And leave thee wild and sad!

Ah! ’twere a lot too blessed
For ever in thy coloured shades to stray;
Amid the kisses of the soft south-west
To rove and dream for aye;

And leave the vain low strife
That makes men mad—the tug for wealth and power,
The passions and the cares that wither life,
And waste its little hour.

pumpkin4

When the Frost is on the Punkin
By James Whitcomb Riley

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Poems taken from:
http://www.poetryfoundation.org
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16341/16341-h/16341-h.htm#page71

“A Light exists in Spring”: Poems to Celebrate the First Day of Spring

Today is the first day of spring! After a long winter, I’m always filled with wonder when the earth turns green again. The first bright purple crocuses push up from the ground, and the daffodils dance in the warm breeze. Birds sing again louder than ever, and the frogs scream in the ponds. Sunshine melts the frozen world and life is renewed.

easter crocus daffodils

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a hopeless literature-obsessed romantic, but every spring I try once again to capture feelings into words in poetry. Of course, I’m not the only one to “wax poetic” in the springtime. Here are some spring-inspired poems from my favorite poets. And if you have the patience to stick with me, I’ve added one of my own at the end. Happy first day of spring!

“812” by Emily Dickinson

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

“A Prayer in Spring” by Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

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“Three Spring Notations on Bipeds” by Carl Sandburg

1

The down drop of the blackbird,
The wing catch of arrested flight,
The stop midway and then off: off for triangles, circles, loops of new hieroglyphs—
This is April’s way: a woman:
“O yes, I’m here again and your heart
knows I was coming.”

2

White pigeons rush at the sun,
A marathon of wing feats is on:
“Who most loves danger? Who most loves wings? Who somersaults for God’s sake in the name of wing power in the sun and blue on an April Thursday.”
So ten winged heads, ten winged feet, race their white forms over Elmhurst.
They go fast: once the ten together were a feather of foam bubble, a chrysanthemum whirl speaking to silver and azure.

3

The child is on my shoulders.
In the prairie moonlight the child’s legs hang over my shoulders.
She sits on my neck and I hear her calling me a good horse.
She slides down—and into the moon silver of a prairie stream
She throws a stone and laughs at the clug-clug.

“The Enkindled Spring” by D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

spring-path

“Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

birds_5_von_10

“Storm Silencer” by Meagan Gunn

Nerves are buzzing and zinging from the sudden awakening.
Midnight.
Rumbling is the echo left over from thunder’s explosion.
My eyes blink rapidly in the darkest blackness that comes
after lightning.
Rain is pounding holes in the ground outside my window. If I focus
I can smell the sopping wet mud. It wrinkles my nose.
Noises roar louder and the rain tries to outdo the thunder, but I
hear one small voice.
Alone but unafraid.
Three high notes ring out from a tree and put the chaos to shame because
those three notes are pure and true and will always
be heard above darkness and fear.

Do you have any favorite springtime poems?

Poems were taken from http://poetry.about.com/ and http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/241410.

Reading and Growing: 10 Books That Shaped and Changed Me

A friend challenged me this week to make a list of ten books that have affected my life in some way or helped me grow personally. At first I thought it would be difficult to come up with a list, but once I started making one, it was hard to limit it to only ten!

If you’ve read the book reviews I’ve posted on my blog so far, two of these books won’t be a surprise. I’d also like to add that although it’s not in this list, the Bible has shaped and changed me more than any other book.

So without any more introductions, here—in order from childhood through college— is my list:

 books-and-heart-jpeg

1)  The Boxcar Children series originally created by Gertrude Chandler Warner. At one point I owned between 20 and 30 of the books in this series. The orphaned siblings Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden were the first friends I found in books, and I was amazed at how wise and “old” 14-year-old Henry was. Their adventures and mysteries sparked my imagination and inspired me to try writing my own stories.

2)  The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My mom introduced me to these books when I was seven years old. As soon as I opened the first book— Little House in the Big Woods—I was captivated by the pioneer life and adventures of the Ingalls family. I loved the books so much that during middle school I wrote several hundred pages of my own story surrounding a pioneer family, and it’s embarrassingly bad when I read it now.

3)  The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. There must be something about four siblings going on adventures that appeals to children. I traveled to the magical world of Narnia with Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie and met Aslan, a lion who explained the meaning of life, love, and sacrifice better than any pastor or teacher ever could. I think reading this series was also the start of my love for England and everything British.

4)  The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. Is it possible to read these books and not immediately want to be Anne Shirley’s “bosom friend” and “kindred spirit”? I loved learning about Prince Edward Island and growing up with Anne as she learned about life, love, and loss. I remember laughing and crying while I read these books. I reread the series last year, and it affected me in very different ways than it did when I was younger because now I relate more to Anne of Avonlea and Windy Poplars than to Anne of Green Gables.

5)  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This is yet another book centered on four siblings, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. I loved their imagination and creativity. After reading about their own version of Pickwick papers, I started writing a family newspaper with my younger brother and sister. It was quite creatively called “The Gunn Family Chronicle,” and we wrote stories, weather reports, recipes, ads, and comic strips.

6)  The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I read this book in junior high school, and it was the first time that reality hit me. I remember sobbing and having long conversations with my mom about the evil in the world. It still amazes me that a young girl had such an astounding amount of hope in the midst of such horror, and I will never forget the lives that were lost in the Holocaust.

7)  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I discovered Jane Austen in high school after watching the 2005 movie version of the novel. I’ve been in love with England and Mr. Darcy ever since, and I wrote my college honors thesis about courtship in this novel. I could write pages about why I love Austen and her novels, but I’ll save that for another time.

8)  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. This novel is heartbreakingly beautiful. It challenged me to think about love and authenticity differently. I also realized how much I love classic literature.

9)  My Ántonia by Willa Cather. I read this novel in college and immediately loved Cather’s writing style. She can describe a place with such detail by using descriptions for all five senses. It’s cliché to say this, but when I read Cather’s novels, I always feel like I’m actually in the novel seeing and feeling everything. It challenges me to be more descriptive when I write.

10)  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I started reading the Brontë sisters’ novels after I read Jane Austen. I had to get past the fact that they didn’t like Austen’s novels, but this has definitely become one of my favorite novels. Jane’s strength of character is something I admire and hope to work toward.

Well, that’s the end of my list! It’s a good thing I limited myself to ten books after all. There’s no telling how long this post could have become. What are your favorite books?