| 03.18.2018

‘An old-fashioned Thanksgiving’ — A mouthwatering story that warms the heart


In the past with my reviews, I’ve chosen stories that include interesting metaphors or have exciting twists.

That is not the case with Louisa May Alcott’s “An old-fashioned Thanksgiving”.

Much like Thanksgiving tradition, this story offers no surprise twists or deep metaphors.

Instead, it serves up a beautiful tale about children doing their best to prepare for Thanksgiving.

The reader follows the Bassett family, a troupe living in the hills of New Hampshire during the late 1800s.

The mother and the father, along with their children are busy preparing for the big feast on the following day.

The family soon receives word that their grandmother has fallen ill, and they should come as soon as they can.

The mother and the father leave the children and head to the grandmother’s house.

Not to let Thanksgiving be ruined, the children take it upon themselves to prepare the food all on their own.

What follows is a heartwarming example of familial love.

They band together and end up cooking a wonderful feast, save for the “plum pudding and stuffing.”

The mother and the father return home with the rest of the family in town.

The grandmother didn’t fall ill, and all is right with the world again.

Alcott leaves us that night as the family all drift off to sleep warm, full and happy.

Never have I felt the term “capturing the essence” embodied a story as much as I did in this one.

Alcott’s tale seems more like a recounting of actual events than a story.

Her characters feel so alive they practically leap of the page. From the banter between siblings to the diligence and love with which they cook, Alcott captures exactly what Thanksgiving is about: not worrying about outside problems and instead focusing on time with the family and good food.

It is refreshing to read a story knowing exactly what you are going to get from it.

Alcott shows that stories like this need not be dull and drab. Instead of relying on engaging plot, they can flesh out lifelike characters that engage the reader.

The lack of an overarching plot in this story makes the small problems more poignant.

For instance, Tilly, one of the daughters, takes it upon herself to make plum pudding.

She’s seen her mother do it “a thousand times” so how hard could it be?

She starts off well until it comes time for wrapping the pudding and letting it expand.

The wrapping is too tight and makes the pudding hard as rock.

Normally, this small mishap would be lost in the sea of bigger problems, but because these bigger problems don’t exist in this story, it allows the reader to relate to the large impact such a simple problem can have on a child.

This effect also works with the conclusion. Instead of a climactic final scene, the reader is presented with a stereotypical happy ending. While this may seem like a letdown, the reader is invested in the children.

When the whole family comes marching over the hill, the reader is just as happy as the young characters are.

This means the grandma is well, and Thanksgiving can continue as planned. This time, even better than before — with the addition of aunts, uncles and cousins.

While some aspects of the story seem foreign due to the age, the core, timeless message of family and happiness still rings true.

Griffen Winget can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu

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