Hi everyone,

In little women by Louisa May Alcott, there is a quote like "I can’t afford to starve on praise".

Do not know exactly know what she means.

For my superficial understandings on words, "afford" means there is no enough money for buying things.

"Starve" is about being hungry. Could someone kindly elaborate this whole sentence meaning?




She cannot live on praise (for her writing). She needs to earn money. If she receives praise but no money then she will starve. "afford to ~" is not itself used in a purely monetary sense here. It is used in the sense of what is possible to sustain or bear without detriment. In this context it feels like a slightly "clever" usage.


The context is important:

“Alcott notes in her diary in 1865, “fell back on rubbishy tales, for they pay best, and I can’t afford to starve on praise when sensation stories are written in half the time and keep the family cosey."

Louisa Mae Alcott is comparing two different kinds of writing. First, there are sensational stories, which she can write very quickly and are very popular. They earn her enough money to pay the family's living expenses.

Second, excellent literature, which takes a long time to write, and gets a lot of praise from the critics, but does not earn much money.

She is saying that she has to write "rubbish", popular romantic and sensational stories, even though she thinks they are not worthy of her talents.