Little Women

I’ve been thinking about ‘Little Women.’ If you don’t know Little Women is a book, most people read as kids, about four sisters, the March sisters, and their life in Massachusetts during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era that follows.

Here are stills from Little Women movie versions from 1933, 1994, & 2019

Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women based on her own sisters and their upbringing. Jo, the protagonist of the book, based on Louisa herself, is constantly going against the norms of what women should be and do,  refusing to be satisfied with her place in society. I read the book as a kid , and then reread the book as an adult a fewish years ago.

When I came back from my trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about  the part where Jo feels restless and loves her home, but also wants to leave and experience something new. This frustration is what I felt, and I still feel a little even now. This scene is ingrained in my mind, mostly from watching the 1994 version of Little Women. Winona Ryder as Jo, embodies Jo’s frustration and feels stifled by her role in her home, and living in her small world of Concord Massachusetts . Seeing this as a teenager, and even now as an adult, I sense the wanting to leave, when home is source of restlessness.

In the movie at least the most recent versions, part of the reason why Jo leaves, and feels discontent with her home, is because she’s refused a proposal by Theodore ‘Laurie’ Laurence, her best friend and neighbor. In both the recent movie and in the 90’s version I remember thinking why wouldn’t you want to marry him, especially because the 90’s version is Christian Bale. But in the book Jo and Laurie very much have a brother/ sister/friend relationship. The narrator tells the reader that there are more feelings on Laurie’s side, but Jo tries to ignore them or is in denial.

I can’t find the scene that I really want, but here is Laurie proposing to Jo from the 1994 version of Little Women

I’ve gone back and reread this particular part in the book. And Jo goes off to New York because she senses Laurie’s feelings. She leaves so Laurie will not be in love with her anymore. She wants to avoid this interaction, by removing herself from it. It is not avoided all together because on Jo’s return Laurie proposes. In both the movie and the book Jo leaves home because of Laurie, but in the newest movie versions, they tweak the reason why.

While Jo is the protagonist, in the book and the movie, in movie versions, a lot of the stories about the sisters characters are left out. I forgot about some of the characterizations of the other sisters, mostly the difference between Jo and Amy, the youngest of the sisters. Amy wants to fit into society, knows to follow societal rules, visits her neighbors, and keeps in the good graces of Aunt March, which is why she’s chosen to go to Europe instead of Jo. Amy is how women are supposed to act and Jo rebels against it.

There are so many versions of Little Women from a silent film to the most recent version, that came out this year. I was skeptical of a new version, mostly because I think the 1994 one is so good. I also am tired of people recycling movies, must everything be a remake? Have we really run out of ideas?The biggest difference between the movies and the book is that in the book they are girls. Little Women, the book , Jo is 15. The only one where the March sisters are somewhat young is the PBS series that was produced a few years ago. Yes another version.

I don’t want to get too much into the comparison of the movies, because it would take a while. I will say I think the 90’s version is still my fave. The newest version has a very specific point of view and does some things that kind of bothered me. I felt like it was trying to hard, or emphasized too much on certain elements of the sister relationship. I know adapting a book into a film is difficult, especially a book that has been adapted into multiple versions, and there will be a new one every generation. But I would say I liked it, but it’s not my favorite, that I’ve seen. Have you seen the new ‘Little Women’ yet? Do you have a preferred version?

And here’s the trailer for the most recent Little Women

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