Sibling Relationships

1. What is it?

Siblings are one’s brothers and/or sisters. Sibling relationships refer to the quality of relationship one has with these brothers and sisters.

In literature, sibling relationships may be positive and supportive, or set them as adversaries.

2. How is it made?

A family unit is presented, including siblings.The siblings are given unique personalities.
 The siblings have independent lives and ideas, but the family keeps them connected.An event occurs that either put the siblings into conflict, or forces them to collaborate.

3. Examples in literature

Little Women 
by Louisa May Alcott

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Title: Little Women
Author: Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
Published: 1871
Language: English
Genre: Fiction; novel; coming-of-age
Plot: The four March sisters and their mother are living without their father, who is serving as a chaplain in the Civil War. The eldest daughters, Meg (16) and Jo (15) work to support the family, but scarlet fever strikes Beth (13). As the girls grow up, marriage and leaving home become possibilities. However, Beth’s health and leaving their mother alone act as a counterweights, keeping the family together.
Setting: Massachusetts; American Civil War
Characters: Meg March; Jo March; Beth March; Amy March; Marmee

Excerpt from Chapter 36:

Jo could not speak, and for several minutes there was no sound but the sigh of the wind and the lapping of the tide. A white-winged gull flew by, with the flash of sunshine on its silvery breast. Beth watched it till it vanished, and her eyes were full of sadness. A little gray-coated sand bird came tripping over the beach ‘peeping’ softly to itself, as if enjoying the sun and sea. It came quite close to Beth, and looked at her with a friendly eye and sat upon a warm stone, dressing its wet feathers, quite at home. Beth smiled and felt comforted, for the tiny thing seemed to offer its small friendship and remind her that a pleasant world was still to be enjoyed.
“Dear little bird! See, Jo, how tame it is. I like peeps better than the gulls. They are not so wild and handsome, but they seem happy, confiding little things. I used to call them my birds last summer, and Mother said they reminded her of me—busy, quaker-colored creatures, always near the shore, and always chirping that contented little song of theirs. You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone. Meg is the turtledove, and Amy is like the lark she writes about, trying to get up among the clouds, but always dropping down into its nest again. Dear little girl! She’s so ambitious, but her heart is good and tender, and no matter how high she flies, she never will forget home. I hope I shall see her again, but she seems so far away.”
“She is coming in the spring, and I mean that you shall be all ready to see and enjoy her. I’m going to have you well and rosy by that time,” began Jo, feeling that of all the changes in Beth, the talking change was the greatest, for it seemed to cost no effort now, and she thought aloud in a way quite unlike bashful Beth.
“Jo, dear, don’t hope any more. It won’t do any good. I’m sure of that. We won’t be miserable, but enjoy being together while we wait. We’ll have happy times, for I don’t suffer much, and I think the tide will go out easily, if you help me.”

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. Briefly, what is happening in this scene?
2. In what sort of setting is the sisters’ house?
3. What are the names of the four sisters in Little Women
Identifying Techniques

4. How are birds used metaphorically in this passage?
5. What euphemism is used for dying?
6. What type of persuasion is being used to make the audience connect to Beth? 
Text Analysis

7. Of the four sisters, Beth is seen as the shyest, most unassuming, and most selfless. How is this reflected in the given passage?
8. How does Jo’s personality differ from Beth’s?
9. How is the future discussed in this passage? What tone does it have, and what purpose does its use fill?
10. What ideas represent hope to Beth? 
Theme Exploration

11. How is the closeness of the sisters in Little Women presented in this passage? What is the sisters’ relationship with each other? 
Provoking Opinion

12. How does the passage make you feel? How do you feel about the different characters within it?
13. Do you think close sibling relationships can survive an entire lifetime? Can the connections held as children continue throughout adulthood? If yes, should they?
14. Louisa May Alcott used much of her own family experience in writing Little Women. Do you think it helps or hinders a book if it resembles an author’s life? Can a book ever be completely separate from its author’s life?

Pride and Prejudice 
by Jane Austen

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Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Published: 1813
Language: English
Genre: Fiction; novel; novel of manners; romance
Plot: Mr Bennett holds an estate, but having five daughters and no sons means he has no male heir to inherit the property and his family will be poor when he dies. His wife has therefore made it her life ambition to marry off the girls. Despite her mother’s zealous promotion of marriage as a means of achieving security, Elizabeth Bennett is uninterested in a union with men she feels are flawed. Yet one of them, Mr Darcy, she may have misjudged.
Setting: Middle England, based on Hertfordshire; early 19th century
Characters: Elizabeth Bennett; Fitzwilliam Darcy; Mr Bennett; Mrs Bennett; Jane Bennett; Lydia Bennett; Charles Bingley

Excerpt from Chapter 4:

When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister just how very much she admired him.
“He is just what a young man ought to be,” said she, “sensible, good-humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners!—so much ease, with such perfect good breeding!”
“He is also handsome,” replied Elizabeth, “which a young man ought likewise to be, if he possibly can. His character is thereby complete.”
“I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second time. I did not expect such a compliment.”
“Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person.”
“Dear Lizzy!”
“Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in your life.”

1. As well as being her sister, Jane views Elizabeth as a

a) nemesis
b) matriarchal figure
c) colleague
d) role model
e) confidante

2. Elizabeth believes Jane’s habit of liking people is responsible for

a) her divorce
b) her lack of a husband
c) society not respecting her
d) previous crushes on poorly-chosen men
e) her popularity with multiple bachelors

3. While Jane believes Mr. Bingley asking her to dance twice was a compliment, Elizabeth believes it was not manners but instead because

a) he found the dance boring
b) Elizabeth told him to dance with her sister
c) he was confused as to which sister was which
d) he wants a favour from their family
e) Jane was the best-looking woman at the dance

4. Which of the following does the passage not suggest?

a) Mr. Bingley is a desirable bachelor
b) Jane prizes the opinion of her sister
c) Being polite is a sought-after quality in this society
d) Elizabeth is more cynical about people than Jane
e) Elizabeth has secret feelings for Mr. Bingley

5. Based on the tone and topic of their conversation, which is probably true of the sisters in Pride and Prejudice compared to those in Little Women?

a) Their parents are deceased
b) They are older
c) One of them is married
d) They are poor
e) They are employed