As my title suggests, this project examines Alcott's vision of the family in Work (1873). Her characters do indeed "talk as industriously as they work" as a means of creating the circumstances necessary for the achievement of sentimental ideals at the very moment when sentimentalism itself begins to lose cultural dominance. They achieve the goals of voluntary affective relationships and protection from the ills of wage labor not through a "change of heart," as Harriet Beecher Stowe's characters do, but through changing the circumstances in which they live their lives. Using the work of Habermas and Wallerstein to articulate those circumstances, this project explores the significance of Alcott's novel within the context of reform movements and labor history, ultimately concluding that the practicality of Alcott's vision undermines its political potential.
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