Alcott’s Independence Day tales
In 1876, the centennial of the birth of the United States of America, Louisa M. Alcott issued a short story collection entitled Silver Pitchers, and Independence: a Centennial Love Story. The nine stories include “Transcendental Wild Oats,” a satirical portrayal of the unsuccessful utopian community Louisa’s father founded when she was a girl. The two stories from which the collection’s title is taken both revolve around a “declaration of independence” made by the main characters. In “Silver Pitchers,” three popular young ladies take a stand against alcohol, a decision which is initially derided by their peers. Over the course of a year, the girls’ examples persuade their friends, relatives, and sweethearts to free themselves from the influence of alcohol. In “Independence,” U.S. centennial celebrations form the backdrop for the story of John and Dolly, two young lovers who are struggling to choose their own life paths despite the expectations of family members. John rejects an inheritance which was gained immorally; Dolly resists her aunt’s plans to arrange her marriage to a rich, older man. They decide to be true to themselves and marry in poverty instead of being enslaved by money and society.