Title: Little Women
Author: Louisa May Alcott
Little Women was the first classic I remember reading, when my mother assigned it to me for a middle school book report. I’m not sure if it was just the idea of writing a book report or I didn’t quite understand all of the book, but regardless, I hated Little Women.
Several years later, after seeing (and adoring) the 1994 movie with Winona Ryder, I grudgingly picked it up again, wondering if a second chance would change my opinion. And it did. I look back at my harsh views the first time I read Little Women, and I wonder what in the world I was thinking. Last month, I happily read it once more to review it for The Classics Club.
Words that come to mind when describing Little Women are… Warmth. Love. Home. Family. There is such a homelike beauty to this novel. The obvious love amongst the March family is a touching thing to behold. Amid struggles, they grow closer, holding tight to one another. Their unbreakable bond reminds me of my own dear family, who treasure each other far above anything else. Reading Little Women... it’s like coming home.
Jo March and I are scarily similar. In fact, we could be sisters. If I had lived a hundred years ago. And if she were real. Jo has remained one of my favorite literary heroines, and for good reasons. She is remarkably real. With the exception of Emma Woodhouse, there is maybe not another heroine who is so very flawed as Jo is, and I love that. Jo is spirited, fiery, moody, and a writer. She acts on impulse, often regrets her hasty decisions, and treasures her family more than anything. While she can be rash, Jo is also very wise. She understands people and is sensitive to others’ needs. Despite her idiosyncrasies and irritability, Jo is really quite a lovable heroine. I often think that if certain circumstances were different (i.e., if I lived a hundred years ago and if she were real), Jo March and I would be best friends.
Call me crazy, but Laurie Laurence is one of my favorite literary heroes. And I know what you’re all thinking. Yes, he does sulk around a bit after Jo refuses him (but really, can ya blame him?), but he truly does reform his idle ways. And that’s a big part of why I like him so much. He eventually overcame his disappointment, grew up, and became a real man. And aside from all that, the guy knew which woman he wanted to marry, and by golly, he pursued her! That’s what I call a man, even if he didn’t exactly get the woman he originally wanted… Yeah, I’m one of those Jo-should-have-married-Laurie types, but there will be more on that in a sec.
I must say, there are three things about Little Women that have always irked me. I am irked. The first thing is Amy is never punished for burning Jo’s story. Am I the only one who sees this as a problem? All Amy is told is it was naughty to burn up Jo’s story and she needs to make up with her sister. Sometimes it seems Jo is blamed more than Amy is, when Jo was not to blame. Amy was a spoiled brat over the whole play ordeal, and she should have realized she had no business going. Amy needed someone firm like Jo in her life to snap her out of her selfishness. Honestly, that part of the story infuriates me every time. And don’t even speak to me of how it’s depicted in the movie: Amy’s half-hearted, half-whispered “I’m sorry, Jo” as she walks out of the room. Good grief. That’s it?
The second irking thing is… WHY DOESN’T JO MARRY LAURIE? I can imagine Louisa May Alcott, sitting at her writing desk one day, staring at her Little Women manuscript thinking, “Hmmm, this is getting too boring. How could I make it more interesting? Oh, I know! Let me crush all the hopes of both Laurie and my readers and make Jo refuse to marry Laurie! Marvelous.” Laurie Laurence was the perfect match for Jo March; the reasons she refused him were quite pitiful, indeed. By her own confession, Jo was moody and homely, and Laurie was lively and energetic: the perfect fit! They were alike in many ways, but their contrasting personalities complimented each other splendidly. Hence, why they were best friends. Isn’t it a general rule to marry someone who is your best friend? And I’m sorry, but no matter how many times I read Little Women, I can’t warm up to Professer Bhaer. As I’m usually drawn to the dark featured, scholarly, book-loving hero types, this surprises even me. But I just don’t like him (not even in the movie, really). He’s just… blah. Laurie is an infinitely better hero than Professor Bhaer. I honestly think Louisa May simply wanted her story to have a twist other than the usual heroine-marries-the-obvious-hero plotline, so she quickly invented the Professor and a few lame reasons for Jo to refuse Laurie. I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that Jo finally realized how much she did love Laurie and regretted her refusal, but after he married Amy she eventually just settled for the Professor, a man she did genuinely like. Alright, I can see the tomatoes in your hands. Go ahead and throw ‘em.
The final irking thing is I hate that Laurie marries Amy. Bring on the tomatoes if you wish, but I will stand here and take them like a woman. Amy? Really? The shallow, selfish, I-will-only-marry-a-rich-man type? Perhaps she reformed a tiny bit by the end, but still. Amy was spoiled when she was young, and she was spoiled when she was older. I have never been endeared to Amy March.
Does anyone else agree with me on any of the above points? Or am I just a literary radical who should be locked away in a book-less closet for heresy?
Nevertheless, for previously stated reasons, I will always count Little Women as a worthy classic. The warmth and love contained in its pages makes it a beautiful, heartwarming read. And I could never ever forsake my literary sister, Josephine March. Although, because of how much certain parts of the storyline irk me, I cannot say Little Women is a faultless, absolute favorite classic, but I do love the dear thing and will forever treasure it in my library.
My rating: 7 out of 10
Would I read it again: I never want to tire of it, so I greatly space out my readings.
(p.s. i promise, folks… the second part of my les miserables review is coming up next!)