Ah, the time old classic that is Little Women. I remember trying to read it for the first time in my mother’s old copy of the Illustrated version. It had the most beautiful painting on the cover of the March sisters sitting and singing with Marmee while Beth played the piano, and to this day it sits perfectly on my bookshelf. I have fond memories of watching the Wynona Ryder Little Women film with my mom and sister when we first got Netflix, and I remember thinking about how romantic it was. Then the BBC series from 2017 came about, and I absolutely fell in love with it. But, now that we're getting the Saorise Ronan film in December, it felt like a good time to reflect on why this story is still so important and beloved.
It Signifies the Importance of Family Togetherness
These days, television, books, and other media seem to carry a running theme of dysfunctional family arrangements( anyone who's ever watched an ABC Spark series knows what I mean). They seem to display families in a very negative light and show them falling out over very trivial things. However, with the March sisters, the reality is quite different.
Anyone who has read this book knows that the girls do not always get along, especially in the case of Jo and Amy. In fact, they have had extreme fights up to the extent that Amy ends up destroying Jo’s handwritten short story collection (a type of despair that only a creator who has lost their work before can possibly understand).
Nevertheless, despite their differences, the girls always ended up finding a way to work things out, even to forgive actions that at the time seemed unforgivable. The spirit of forgiveness is very prevalent in this book, and I felt like Louisa May Alcott really pinpointed the way families tend to behave. The people we can hurt the most are often the people we love the most, so we will easily say and do things that we don’t mean. In the case of the March sisters, their falling’s out eventually resolved themselves, because of how important they all were to one another.
Independence is Displayed in a Balanced Way
Jo March is possibly the most independent heroine in classic literature. She has a very determined spirit and goes after what she knows will make her happy. What I loved about her character especially, was that she didn’t come to the conclusion that pursuing a career equals life in spinsterhood, which back in the day was a common belief.
Jo managed to find love with Professor Baer while still pursuing a career, which wasn’t something highly promoted for girls in the mid-late 1800s. The teaching was you either work or you marry, you can’t have both (albeit in Europe this was a law for many years). But obviously, in the case of Jo and many other women back in the day, that is a false teaching that this book continues to debunk over and over again. Jo remained independent, resourceful and knew her own mind, while still experiencing the joy of being married and the richness of life that followed it.
Every Character has Depth
Something that really grows old in media is when characters in a show or book are depicted as being perfect all the time and never having a fault, or vise versa. However in this book that isn’t the case. Even the kindest people can do or say regrettable things, and the most impolite and insincere person can still have their soft moments. No one has a one-track mind, and this book truly displays that.
Amy was a brat and very self-serving much of the time, but she still often had her sweet moments and eventually grew into a kinder and more sincere person. Meg was so sweet she could give you diabetes. But there were certain times, like in her marriage to John, where she would break down into tears of frustration and anger. I really appreciated it when the sisters would do things that were out of character because, in reality, everyone takes a turn being the bad guy. Alcott's depth within her characters is what made this book so much more relatable and lasting in sincerity, unlike other stories that are static because the characters never fluctuate.
Hard Work is Displayed in a Favourable Light
The March family is not wealthy by any means. They had the kind of day to day work that the average person of today’s world would find unbearably exhausting. The March family, however, did bear it, and for the most part, kept a positive outlook on their situation. Being poor was something they had grown accustomed to, and having to work harder than most girls the sisters' age ended up benefiting them later on, making them more compassionate people.
Many view hard work as worse than death, but the March sisters simply did what needed to be done, and rarely complained (except for Amy, who always wished to be rich). They appreciated everything they did have and when leisure time rolled around, they made the most of it! Even when all the work was done, they used their free time to do active things, such as putting on plays and spending time outdoors. They weren’t lazy by any means, and truly seized every moment of every day.
There are so many favorable things to say about this story, that it's difficult to narrow them down. If you haven't read or watched Little Women, I strongly urge you to do so. You will come away from it with satisfaction, and an outlook on life that you never knew before.
What's your favorite thing about Little Women? Let me know in the comments below!