An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott, 1881
The magic trick:
Creating an appealing rustic, domestic setting
A lot of different things happen in this story, between the ailing grandmother and the would-be bear attack. But let’s be honest – the only part that really matters is the setting. There is something very appealing about domestic life in the American countryside during the mid-1800s. People just love it, the idea of a large family working together to keep a cozy home amidst daunting natural elements. It worked for Alcott in Little Women; it worked for Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Little House On The Prairie books; and it works here. And that’s quite a trick on Alcott’s part.
“Sakes alive, I don’t, boys! It’s a marcy it don’t come but once a year. I should be worn to a thread paper with all this extra work atop of my winter weavin’ and spinnin’,” laughed their mother, as she plunged her plump arms into the long bread trough and began to knead the dough as if a famine were at hand.
Tilly, the oldest girl, a red-cheeked, black-eyed lass of fourteen, was grinding briskly at the mortar, for spices were costly, and not a grain must be wasted. Prue kept time with the chopper, and the twins sliced away at the apples till their little brown arms ached, for all knew how to work, and did so now with a will.