I had the great joy of watching Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ on the big screen, this past week. I won’t spend this post purely gushing, because there is a lot to gush about in this movie. The sets, the similarities between the sets and the interiors of Orchard House, where I have had the pleasure of visiting in person, the exquisite costumes, the acting… and so much more were a pure delight. I wasn’t too sure about the non-linear storytelling in the movie. Sometimes I found the juxtaposition of scenes a little confusing – and they certainly were too much for my 8 year old- who shouted mid- cinema – “Look Beth is alive again!”
She also lamented – why does this story have to be so sad! But in my mind – the poignancy of the story is one of the greatest strengths of the plot and why it feels so endearing even centuries later.
As I’ve been re-hashing the Little Women story by Louisa May Alcott, over and over in my mind, in recent days, I thought it would be nice to muse about Love and Little Women, and examine all the different kinds of love we witness in one of the most enduring children’s stories of all time. (PS : this post contains spoilers so don’t read it if you haven’t read the book yet. And if you haven’t read the book yet – what are you doing?!).
So here goes my essay – Love and Little Women- specially for Valentine’s Day:
1) Jo and Laurie
They are the quintessential pair at the heart of the story. They are inseparable, they grow up together and in the eyes of Alcott – they have TOO much in common. So, when Laurie professes his love to Jo and she rejects him, our hearts are broken because we don’t want their unique bond to break. Here is a love that is youthful, powerful and passionate.
2) Jo and Meg
The eldest March sisters, Jo and Meg, have a sweet relationship. Jo is fiercely possessive of her older sister and dislikes her growing up and assuming grown up ways. She certainly dislikes any amorous attentions that anyone might show Meg.
3) Jo and Beth
It is endearing to see how protective and nurturing Jo is towards Beth. These two sisters have opposite temperaments, Jo being strong and Beth weak. Nevertheless, the differences between the sisters means that they depend on one another deeply. Beth depends on Jo to provide her with courage. And Jo depends on Beth for love and affection and for the example she sets. Beth reminds everyone that she meets of the virtue of being good.
4) Jo and Amy
Jo and Amy are the two March sisters with the most artistic temperaments. Jo with her passion for writing and Amy with her passion for painting are constantly sparring with one another. Amy wishes to be treated with the respect of an adult and when she is ignored she lashes out in the worst way possible. The competition continues between the sisters in both love and patronage by wealthy Aunt March.
5) Meg and Mr Brook
Meg is the actor of the family but unlike Jo or Amy, she lacks any artistic aspirations. She only asks for a loving husband and family and she certainly finds a loving husband in John Brook. I’ve always loved the bit in Little Women where Mr Brook steals Meg’s glove and keeps it to himself. Alcott keeps Meg and Mr Brook’s relationship very real, by showing how money and the lack of it, can place strain on the strongest bonds of love.
6) Aunt March and Jo
Cantankerous Aunt March and Jo share a curious relationship. Aunt March uses her money and all the power that comes with it, to buy companionship. She is an extremely lonely old woman but at heart she shows a secret disposition to improve the fortunes of her poor relatives and promote the artistic talents of Jo and Amy. Revengeful in nature, she chooses Amy as a companion on her European travels but in the end bequeaths her house and wealth to Jo.
7) Marmie and Her Girls
Marmie, Hannah and her four girls share the loveliest bond of love. I always think of Laurie looking wistfully in, from the outside on the festivities of the March household before he befriended them and being envious. Who wouldn’t be envious of such love and friendship?
9) The Love Between Laurie and Amy
When I was a young girl, I could never understand the love between Laurie and Amy and always found it blasphemous that Laurie should so easily transfer his love to another of the March sisters. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to realize that a marriage between two hot-headed individuals is an undesirable thing. So you might say, even though I don’t understand Laurie and Amy’s connection I’ve learnt to accept it.
10) The Love Between Jo and Prof. Bhaer
Here is another relationship that I think I’ve learnt to accept and understand as I’ve grown older. Jo and the philosophical professor share a love for literature and have much in common. Whereas Jo is hot-headed, the Professor is wise and practical. Not the most exciting relationship but one that perhaps endures.
11) The Love Between Jo and Her Father
The worry for their father, his health and involvement in the war always lingers in the background of Little Women. When he falls sick and Marmie and Mr Brook rush to nurse him, Jo sacrifices her ‘one, true beauty’ – her magnificent hair – in order to scrounge up money for the trip. Later she cries for the loss of her hair, but her sacrifice shows just how much she loves her father.
12) The Love That Jo Has for Writing
Lastly, we come to the most inspiring love of all – the love that Jo has for writing. Many of us who like to read, have a love for writing too. And Jo March’s example of writing her first book is very inspiring and I’m sure has motivated many generations of aspiring authors.
Is ‘Little Women’ a favourite read? Which example of love, do you love the most?