Whenever someone asks me which author I would love to have a conversation with, my mind always drifts to the authors that are no longer with us but who were well beyond their times. One of these authors is Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women. In a time when marriage and domestic life was perceived as a woman’s main role, Louisa May Alcott created a female character with big dreams to write and to make her own way in the world.
I remember two things from when I read Little Women twenty years ago:
1) I am Jo March.
2) How fun it would be to become a writer.
Here are my thoughts after rereading Little Women twenty years later:
1) I am Jo March.
2) I must keep writing even when it’s hard.
You do not have to be a writer or even a woman to appreciate this story. It is a timeless classic that is sure to appeal to people from all walks of life. I’m so happy that this was the first book I read at the very start of the new year and decade.
The March Sisters:
Little Women revolves around the four March sisters as they navigate through the years of their youth and the struggles of being poor and having their father away at war. Each sister is very different in their own way with dreams they wish to accomplish and hardships they learn to overcome.
“You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone.”
“There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping..”
“Meg is like a turtledove, which represents love”
“Amy is like the lark she writes about, trying to get up among the clouds, but always dropping down into its nest again”
Meg dreams of what life could be were she rich and did not have to work. Jo longs to be a writer and struggles to control her temper. Beth is the grateful little dove that does not take any moment for granted and enjoys playing the piano. Amy is the little artist who learns to look beyond the superficial. The bond between the sisters is truly heart warming. Despite all their quarrels and moving on to different stages in their lives, they always find a way back home to each other.
Jo March Book vs. Movie:
“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.” ― Louisa May Alcott,
I love that feeling when you are reading a book and one of the characters becomes more and more relatable to you. Then as you close the book and put it aside you realize “I am that character”. This is what I felt when I was reading about Jo March. While I must admit that Jo is much more adventurous and brave, I feel like we have aligned over the years with our love for writing. The scenes with Jo dealing with the crippling self-doubt as well as being protective of her writing were really raw. You can tell that the author was writing from personal experience that only a writer would know.
BOOK AND MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD:
I know there are many people who wish Jo and Laurie ended up together. I remember wishing for the same thing as a teenager. Maybe there was a small part of me that still wished it would happen as I reread the book. I never really understood why Jo ended up with the professor in the end. It just seemed unlike her, despite the deep connection she felt for the person who was supportive of her literary career. He felt more like a mentor than a love interest. I felt that there could have been a better ending for Jo, but I never knew what it was until I watched the most recent movie of Little Women.
The Ending of the Movie:
If you have not watched the Little Women movie yet STOP READING!
I had finished my reread of Little Women and went to see the movie the very next day. I loved everything about it and felt the characters were well cast. But it was the ending that stole my heart. Before I discuss the ending, let us take a step back and explore the vision Louisa May Alcott had for her beloved Jo.
In the many articles I read, it was revealed that Louisa may have felt pressured into giving Jo a more traditional “happily ever after” at the request of her readers and publisher. Her original vision for Jo was one that reflected her own life. Louisa decided to please her readers by giving Jo a happily ever after involving marriage and children.
“Women Have Minds And Souls As Well As Just Hearts, And They’ve Got Ambition And Talent As Well As Just Beauty. And I’m Sick Of People Saying That Love Is All A Woman Is Fit For” – Jo March from the movie version of Little Women.
The movie did something absolutely remarkable that left me smiling and thinking, “yes, this feels like something Jo March would have done”. In the movie we see Jo negotiating the terms of her book “Little Women” that is the story of the March Sisters. She reveals to the publisher that she turned down both men in her life, as chronicled in her book. The publisher encourages her to change the ending for her character by accepting the professor’s hand in marriage. The movie ends with Jo, single, watching her book getting printed and bound.
“I’d Rather Be A Free Spinster And Paddle My Own Canoe.” – Jo March from the movie Little Women.
I absolutely loved this little twist in the end because in many ways it honoured Louisa May Alcott’s vision for Jo March decades after the release of the book. Critics have called this version of Little Women perfect for this generation, and I cannot agree more. At the end of the day, Jo lives her dream of becoming an author and remains independent like she always wanted. It also leaves it open to the interpretation that this young girl realized her dream and there could always be a possibility of love in her future, either with someone coming into her life or from the words she writes on the pages. Either way, it is her choice to make.
I also love how Meg reminds Jo that women can have different dreams that are equally important. Jo dreams of being independent and Meg dreams of getting married and staring a family of her own. I loved this exchange between them because it shows the way things should be: marriage as a choice and dream rather than a social obligation.
“Just Because My Dreams Are Different Than Yours, It Doesn’t Mean They’re Unimportant.” – Meg March from the movie Little Women.
This classic will always have a special place on my bookshelf and in my heart. The movie is my favorite version for all the heart and soul that went into creating the world of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and staying true to her vision.
Happy Reading Bookworms,