Little Men: Part I (Chapters 1 ~ 5)
In the first chapter, we meet a new boy, Nat Blake, for Mr. and Mrs. Bhaer’s Plumfield (Demi and Daisy also live there). He’s a bit shy and plays fiddle (and was sent by Teddy Laurence). He seems to be a good boy to me.
We also meet other boys who live and learn at Plumfield:
-Tommy Bangs, the “scrapegrace of the school”, a mischievious yet good-natured lad
-Franz, Mr. Bhaer’s nephew, a young and reliable man, who loves “his merry aunt like a mother, for such she […] tried to be to him.”
-Emil, also Mr. Bhaer’s nephew (I forget – are he and Franz brothers?); he wants to go to the sea, which he can’t do till he’s sixteen. He’s called “Commodore” by other boys.
-Rob Bhaer, Jo’s son; always in motion, and a “chatterbox”
-Teddy Bhaer, Jo’s second son; a toddler still and always there for cuddling
-Dick Brown, an 8-year-old with a crooked back and cheery spirit (the latter thanks to Plumfield)
-Adolphus “Dolly” Pettingill,another 8-year-old with bad stutter that is getting better
-Jack Ford, a smart yet “money-loving” boy (Mr. Bhaer calls it an affliction)
-Ned Baker, a fourteen-year-old boy who is clumsy and who bullies younger boys and looks up to bigger ones
-George Cole aka “Stuffy”, an over-indulged boy whose mother spoilt him by giving him lots of sweets; his overstuffed and lazy body became much healthier after coming to Plumfield
-Billy Ward, a thirteen-year-old whose father overworked his brilliant young mind; after suffering from fever, Billy woke up with a blank mental slate that refuses to be filled.
After the introduction of boys (and girl – let’s not forget Daisy!), we follow Nat as he -and by default the readers- get to know the place and the people who run it.
Little Men is of a quite different nature than Little Women, yet they have similarities. Instead of one family, Little Men focuses on many little boys -well, more on some than others- as they play pillow fights, take care of animals, talk about the “Good Man” and fight and bond with one another. Yet both books are quite pious as there is a great deal of talks about God, especially to turn to in cases of hardship and faults. Pedagogically, though, Father Bhaer’s methods work better, I think. The scene in which he tries to help Nat curing his habit of lying was heart-tearing and sobering.
So far, the main focus has been on Nat for the first four chapters. In the fifth chapter, the only girl at Plumfield, Daisy, masters her own play as the boys won’t let her play football with them.