by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women Ambition Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"Rome took all the vanity out of me, for after seeing the wonders there, I felt too insignificant to live and gave up all my foolish hopes in despair."
"Why should you, with so much energy and talent?"
"That's just why, because talent isn't genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing. I won't be a common-place dauber, so I don't intend to try any more." (39.49-51)
Do you agree with Amy's suggestion that, if you can't do something with perfect mastery and genuine inspiration, you shouldn't do it at all? What other benefits can people get from art or writing besides creating a magnificent object in the end?
"You must take my place, Jo, and be everything to Father and Mother when I'm gone. They will turn to you, don't fail them, and if it's hard to work alone, remember that I don't forget you, and that you'll be happier in doing that than writing splendid books or seeing all the world, for love is the only thing that we can carry with us when we go, and it makes the end so easy."
"I'll try, Beth." And then and there Jo renounced her old ambition, pledged herself to a new and better one, acknowledging the poverty of other desires, and feeling the blessed solace of a belief in the immortality of love. (40.16-17)
Alcott doesn't allow Jo to balance her personal ambition as a writer with her desire to serve her family. Ironically, or maybe just strangely, Alcott herself balanced a public persona with a private one all her life, and did it really well.
Whatever it was, it simmered to some purpose, for he grew more and more discontented with his desultory life, began to long for some real and earnest work to go at, soul and body, and finally came to the wise conclusion that everyone who loved music was not a composer. Returning from one of Mozart's grand operas, splendidly performed at the Royal Theatre, he looked over his own, played a few of the best parts, sat staring at the busts of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and Bach, who stared benignly back again. Then suddenly he tore up his music sheets, one by one, and as the last fluttered out of his hand, he said soberly to himself . . .
"She is right! Talent isn't genius, and you can't make it so. That music has taken the vanity out of me as Rome took it out of her, and I won't be a humbug any longer. Now what shall I do?" (41.6-7)
Once Laurie realizes that he's only good, not great, at composing music, he turns his attention to a different ambition – marrying a March sister, no matter which one!