Analysis of ‘Our Little Ghost’ by Louisa May Alcott

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The poem Our Little Ghost by Louisa May Alcott is about a ghost of a child who visits the narrator’s house each night. The ghost is said to bring comfort to the dark night with her innocence and tenderness. The narrator uses words such as “fearless,” “thoughtful,” and “loving” to describe the ghost’s gentle nature. The narrator also uses “Like a tricksy household elf,”, “like a sleepy little bird,” to make a comparison of the ghost to tiny, sweet figures.


Alcott mainly uses imagery in this poem to depict pictures of the small ghost which dances in the moonlight and all the other activities. It is in vague whether the parents of the house are the actual parents of the ghost, but either way, they definitely feel a sense of love and caring for the ghost. This is shown in the title by the use of the word “our” to describe her as their ghost. This very feeling is clear in the last line of the poem, “God bless our little ghost!”

little women Louisa may Alcott has a sad tone because the narrator uses so many references to show how young and baby like the ghost is. The line, “With chubby hands on chubby knees, sits winking at the fire” shows that. The ghost either is unaware that she is dead, or is too young and innocent to feel angry or sad about her early death since she is also described as being happy and playful by the poet.

The narrator loves this ghost, appreciates its nightly beauty and its warmth. The visits from the ghost make a contrast with the harsh description of night  seen in the first stanza, which shows that the ghost brings the household members great comfort from the dark, cold, scary night:

“Oft in the silence of the night,

When the lonely moon rides high,

When wintry winds are whistling,

And we hear the owl’s shrill cry;

In the quiet, dusky chamber,”


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Our Little Ghost by Louisa May Alcott Analysis

Irony specifically, only verbal, nothing tragic befalls the ghost or its parents in this poem. It is not dramatic, as there is little back story and you do not know much about the ghost or why it was put there. You can only read into the ideas presented by Alcott and add your own experiences to define the irony of the poem.

Therefore, the first lines of the 2nd to 5th stanzas all provide verbal irony. Obviously, ‘A winsome little ghost it is,’ cannot exist; ghosts are not happy or charming. The same goes for ‘Rosy-cheeked and bright of the eye;’ again, ghosts are meant to be translucent and pale. The child cannot be both a ghost and ‘rosy-cheeked’. We continue this trend with the lines ‘A fearless little ghost it is,’ ‘A merry little ghost it is,’ ‘A thoughtful little ghost it is,’ and ‘A loving little ghost it is.’ The public’s idea of a ghost is not any of these things, so under normal circumstances, this ghost is ironic.

However, given that the ghost is symbolic of something, it is more than likely it can and will be all of these things. A symbol of childish innocence would carry these traits with it, and the spirit of ‘childhood’ would indeed be all these things. Reading it as it is given creates no insight into the mind of the ghost, whether it is a symbol or not and thus creates the ‘given’ sense of irony, a literal take on the ghost’s characteristics.

One other thing that can easily be taken as irony is the line in the fifth stanza, ‘Sings its own soft lullaby.’ As the earlier lines talk about the child’s return to its parent’s bed, it can be understood that the child is singing to its parents to calm them to sleep, as a parent would normally to their child. It sings to cement the idea of its life as a symbol, an idea of the childish innocence the adults have lost in their journey of life. If they could, the parents would frolic in the night, and wonder at the shadows, the moon, and the owls. They would return to the innocence of childhood because there, the world is a much better place. Specifically, only verbal, nothing tragic befalls the ghost or its parents in this poem. It is not dramatic, as there is a little back story and you do not know much about the ghost or why it was put there. Readers can only read into the ideas presented by Alcott and add their own experiences to define the irony of the poem.

The public’s idea of a ghost is not any of these things, so under normal circumstances, this ghost is ironic. However, given that the ghost is symbolic of something, it is more than likely it can and will be all of these things. A symbol of childish innocence would carry these traits with it, and the spirit of ‘childhood’ would indeed be all these things. Reading it as it is given creates no insight into the mind of the ghost, whether it is a symbol or not and thus creates the ‘given’ sense of irony, a literal take on the ghost’s characteristics.

The ghost does a number of things that seem unusual for even a child to do. However, there are concrete things throughout the poem. The room is easy to picture, and easily exists. The moon, high in the sky, and the wind that whistles both are commonplace things, so we understand them. Having parents is another shared experience and one that requires no imagination to think about.

The American poem “Our Little Ghost” by Louisa May Alcott is described as a good example of American poetry. The structure used in an American poem varies with different types of poetry and can be seen in the poem “Our Little Ghost”. The structure used in some poetry types are also used when considering the visual effect of a finished poem.

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