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Literature / March

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March is a 2005 novel by Geraldine Brooks.

It is, believe it or not, a Fanfic of School Study Media classic Little Women. The original novel deals with the four March sisters, and their saintly mother, Marmee, all living and struggling and growing up at home while patriarch John March is mostly offscreen, serving in The American Civil War as a chaplain. Geraldine Brooks's novel is the story of John March.

The book starts out shortly after the traumatic battle of Ball's Bluff, which John March only barely escapes with his life. March goes to a Union military hospital which has been established in the ruins of an old plantation. He is shocked to meet one Grace Clement, a beautiful recently freed slave whom March met some twenty-odd years before, when he was an itinerant peddler roaming through the South. His reunion with Grace sets March off on a series of flashbacks in which he remembers his youth, his business career, his romance with Marmee, and the births of his daughters. Finally, after the flashbacks catch up with the present-day narrative, John March is sent out to educate the slaves on a newly liberated plantation, where they are laboring to grow cotton for the Union. Things go horribly wrong.


  • Beautiful Slave Girl: When he visits the Clement plantation as an 18-year-old traveling salesman, John March is thunderstruck at the beauty and poise of Grace, the house slave of the Clement family. Twenty years later, when he meets Grace again, she is still a Head-Turning Beauty that the Union soldiers in the hospital can't help but ogle as she walks by.
  • Circling Vultures: March watches turkey vultures circle over the Union dead from Ball's Bluff. In the next paragraph he sees a vulture taking a bite out of a dead soldier's guts.
  • Comforting Comforter: Unable to get a soldier to leave the river bank, March puts his blanket over him before walking away.
  • Delirious Misidentification: As Marmee is going through the hospital, a man with "glassy, feverish eyes" sees her and says "Charlotte? Are you come to me at last?"
  • Fanfic: It's that rarest of rare things, a fanfic that isn't terrible. Brooks's novel takes John March, who is mostly offscreen in Little Women, and makes him the protagonist. It tells the story of his service in the Union Army and dramatizes Marmee's journey to his sickbed in Washington, something else that is only mentioned in Alcott's novel.
  • Historical Domain Character: Henry David Thoreau is a friend to the March family. Marmee tears Ralph Waldo Emerson a new one for his insufficient devotion to the cause of abolition. The Marches go to a celebratory dinner for Nathaniel Hawthorne. Finally, they meet John Brown, and Mr. March is bankrupted when he makes the mistake of investing in John Brown's real estate deal.
  • Hunting "Accident": Grace tells March that Mr. Clement's son died when he tripped and fell, which caused the shotgun he was carrying to discharge and blow his face off. Later she admits to March that what really happened was that young Clement saw her while he was out hunting, and he tried to rape her, and it was while they struggled that he tripped and his shotgun went off.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: March goes looking for the wine after an ugly fight between Marmee and Aunt March leads to the latter stalking out, but he discovers that now that they are poor they no longer keep liquor in the home.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: When March nearly has sex with Grace, after meeting her again amidst the carnage and death of Ball's Bluff, he wonders if being around so much death makes people instinctively reach for procreation as an affirmation of life. (He also admits to himself that he simply wanted her.)
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The Confederate guerillas who have raided the plantation have grabbed Ptolemy, and they tell March that they'll chop his head off if March doesn't come out of his hiding place. Ptolemy says "Marse March, if you there you stay put, you hear? I's all used up and I's ready to go to G—", and at that moment, the leader of the guerillas chops off his head.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The Bittersweet Ending has March returned home, not just physically weakened by malaria, but nearly a broken man, haunted by the freed slaves that he could not save, the ones he watched die. Even as he sees his own daughters he is reminded of the dead.
    March: So this was how it was to be, now; I would do my best to live in the quick world, but the ghosts of the dead would be ever at hand.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: A vicious argument between March and Marmee leads to her whacking him across the face with a switch. Then "the ardor of her welcome turned to a different kind of ardor", and they retreat to the house to have sex.
  • The Speechless: Played for drama and horror. Zannah does not speak in March's class for freed slaves, no matter how much he tries to draw her out. Eventually he is told that she was raped by two men who proceeded to cut her tongue out.
  • Starbucks Skin Scale: The other freed slaves at the hospital sneer at Grace for being "yaller" (lighter-skinned, biracial). They think that Grace puts on airs.
  • Stocking Filler: A young Marmee peels off her stocking right in front of March, so that she can go wading in the lake. This gets him very excited, and they have sex for the first time right after.
  • Suicide by Sea: Annie the slave drowns herself in the river after Mr. Clement sells off her children.
  • Switching P.O.V.: About 2/3 of the way through the novel, after John March's sojourn on the cotton plantation ends in disaster, the POV switches to Marmee. She rushes to Washington, DC after hearing that her husband is ill in the capital, an event that is only mentioned in Little Women. This POV switch reveals that the March marriage isn't as happy as John March might imagine. Marmee does not like how her husband lectures her about her manners, resents how he bankrupted the family by investing with John Brown, and hates that he left them to go off and fight in the war.
  • A Taste of the Lash: John March becomes a hard-core abolitionist after watching Grace take a savage whipping, after her owners discover that she got March to teach one of the slave children to read.
  • Underground Railroad: The March family home becomes a waystation on the Underground Railroad. They narrowly escape arrest when, while they are hiding an escaped slave in the attic, a constable comes to their door looking. Beth intimidates him into taking off.
  • When She Smiles: The brilliant smile that Grace gives, when March finishes his first reading lesson with a slave child, makes him realize that he had not seen her smile since his arrival.