Let us start with a confession: I never read Little Women. Nor have I seen any of the screen adaptations of said book. I’ll wait while you recover from the shock.
There’s no particular reason I never read it. I just never did. And I’m betting neither of my sisters read it, either – because I read almost every book that came through that house. I have no good explanation – somehow I missed it. So, I decided my education was seriously lacking and picked it up at the library.
I didn’t expect to like any of the girls in LW except Jo. Not sure why. I also expected the girls to feel more stereotypical than they did. But I really liked Meg, and liked Beth and Amy, though not as much. And I didn’t identify with Jo as much as I might have if I’d read it when I was younger.
Of course, I am more like Jo than any of them. But Jo has virtually no capacity for introspection – she didn’t seem to know herself at all. Amy did a better job of that and at a much younger age. And I never really wanted to be a boy – I just did the ‘boy’ things. But gender roles have eased considerably since Alcott’s time – lucky for me!
I liked how Jo & Laurie were best friends but at least one of them knew they would make a terrible couple. And Alcott writes in the awkward scenes that are necessary when people who care about each other have to deal with how the nature of their relationship has changed. Those who cannot navigate that space end up leaving their friends behind because they can’t talk to each other about the things that are really important. Jo & Laurie had to reconnect with who they were to each other so they could be friends without causing harm to his marriage or Jo & Amy’s relationship. It makes me crazy when people think that – because we don’t talk about it, that means it can’t hurt anyone. That is the stuff that causes the most damage. I also liked how Marmee let the girls learn from their own mistakes – always available to advise but never preachy.
I’m sure the reason that all the TV shows & movies & whatnot focus on Jo is because she was a writer – and it is the writers that are making those representations. Those that identified strongly with Meg are not writing books, they are doing other things with their lives. Same with Amy. And of course, those that identified closely with Beth didn’t live long enough to create any such thing.
I really liked the theme that a woman should have substance and follow her own heart and moral code instead of social pressure (and I would add – what her man/husband thinks). And I was pleasantly surprised when Marmee told Meg she should invite her husband into the nursery because he had a place there. And that she should make a point of getting out of the house w/out children regularly to be refreshed. And it wasn’t all phrased as ‘what she should do to make her husband happy’ but how to make a marriage work and be happy herself. If you left out the presumption that the wife would stay home while the husband worked, it was valid advice for any new mom today that was struggling with that transition.
So, now that I’ve read and enjoyed Little Women, can I get back in the clubhouse?