Sep 13, 2011

Meg, Jo, Beth or Amy? Oh "Little Women."


The March sisters do not quit their jobs and start branding businesses with each other. They sell their hair to pay for their mother's train ticket so she can go nurse their wounded Union soldier father. They get embarrassed for wearing rouge to the dance. They get scarlet fever from tending to poor babies in the woods somewhere. They fall through the ice when skating on frozen rivers and get rescued by dashing rich neighbor boys. They go to France to learn to draw and have good manners. They write novels and fall in love with much older men.

I could never figure out if I was polite and pretty (and kind of boring) older sister Meg, or exciting tomboy heroine (but a little bit obnoxious) and way braver than me, Jo. The younger two March sisters I had less in common with, but were my favorite characters. There was frail but sweet and talented Beth who was the most tragic character, and self-centered, blonde-ringletted, (but really cool) Amy. Hmm, I know which Thomas sister she was most like. I could just cry a bucket when Beth died. And I liked Amy more and more toward the end of the novel, because she could draw and ended up getting the rich neighbor boy, which I always thought was really neat twist at the end. Oh, sorry, Little Women spoiler alert, ha.

Amy's the one depicted on the cameo-style cover of my hunter green leather-bound Little Women book. It even has an attached green ribbon bookmark. It was given to me when I was eleven years old by one of my dad's best friends (who also gave me the nicest set of knives I've ever owned as a wedding gift, go figure).




I read this book about once a year between the ages of eleven and fourteen. It would sit on the shelf next to this doll I had that was given to me by my grandmother Verna. See her little braid (wink). This doll was really fragile, so I never played with it. But that doll was just another indicator that I had a serious Victorian era obsession, that's for sure.

Now, Kathleen (if you didn't guess from my hint above, she's the "Amy") if she even gets within one foot of a victorian-era-anything will fall asleep in about ten seconds flat. But Donny, he gets it. I mean, look at him. Plus I saw him sniffling during the intermission of Les Mis the first time we saw it on broadway.

I remember when the 90's movie version of Little Women came out. Now, I love me a Winona Ryder. She was the first goth girl I ever saw (thank you Beetlejuice). She was the blue-tights-clad Veronica with a smart mouth and poison pen (thank you Heathers). I even love her as bubble-gum popping child bride to Jerry Lee Lewis. "Don't thank Jesus, thank Jerry Lee" (thank you Dennis Quaid).

But Winona is no Jo March. No way. She's way too waifish, all dark eyes and tiny little elfish nose. Jo was tall and redhaired, boyish, blustering and brash. Now, Claire Danes cast as a weepy, frail Beth? Sure. That girl knows how to cry. And Kirsten Dunst as little blonde snooty Amy, who Kathleen gets mistaken for when she's in NYC's east village (Kirsten that is, not Amy) is perfect casting.

But Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is so part of the fabric of me, that the film version (as okay as it might be) is just one of those movies that won't erase the novel in my mind. Some films do, and I'm cool with that. And if we're talking Victorian era, I'd say for example (and don't hate me) but Pride and Predjudice as a story, is kind of a snooze for me, unless I'm watching the Emma Thompson or the Kiera Knightley versions.

Maybe it's just because I don't have the patience for the Victorian era anymore. Today my reading is more blood-lust, power-lust and just regular-lust. The lastest book in the Game Of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin is my current reading material. I alternate between Martin's violent epic and a really good small business help-book, Launch, by Michael Stelzner (this super-social-media-strategy-dude, sigh, aren't they all?)

So now my braided-head ball-gowned doll sits on a shelf in my home office. And I read my two books of the moment (one non-fiction, and one yes-fiction-please) on my Kindle. So I can easily toggle between how to focus my social media strategy and how to vanquish my enemies and put their heads on stakes (you're supposed to dip them in tar first).

No green satin bookmark attached with the Kindle, but at least it still has those really intricate pen-drawn illustrations that come on the screen when you power it off. So I can still lie there and stare at every inky detail before I finally turn off the bedside light, just like I used to do with that illustration of the little March women all sitting together under the tree... wondering which sister I would be.


  1. I have a thing for the Victorian-era too. I get it.

  2. Tara, I love this post and your blog. I LOVE Lousia May Alcott, as well. When I took my 8th grade class to LMA's home (where the guides didn't realize I was a teacher, the entire time...I'm 26 and look gets old after a while)...we were told NOT to take ANY PHOTOS WHATSOEVER of the house. My students all looked at me and giggled: they knew I would. And I did! Her room is inspiring to go to and see exactly where she wrote Little Women. I just read "The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott"--it's a good, easy, fiction read!

  3. I always thought of myself as a mix of Meg & Jo, with a pinch of Amy. Boring bossy big sister, with daring dreams of independence like Jo, and a few silly vanities about my nose (like Amy). Can't wait to read this to my girls...

  4. Molly... I know! Right?!

    Olivia, I am sure your students will be so influenced by your love of LMA (ha, so funny) and at least one of them will have to redo their own bedroom. I remember going on a tour of some Victorian recreation house when I was about thirteen, and yep, the next day I had mom pull out the sewing machine, I need some new curtains and bedspread, we're going Victorian in here!!

    Hey P+P, whatever, you are SO Amy! I forgot about her nose! Lucky you with girls!!!

  5. I have never read "Little Women." Not sure why I haven't, but thanks to this post, I think I'll pick it up next time I'm at the bookstore. ^_^ For me, I have read the "Little House on the Prairie" series yearly since I was a teen (I'd love to visit Laura's house one day). Now that I'm a mother, I think of how women of ages past raised children and did housework, and I always find myself wondering, "What would Ma Ingalls do?" :-D

  6. She Looks: I was also a big Little House reader when I was little. The other day my husband said "let's just make it through the winter" (in response to my new business venture) and I was like "what is this? Little House on the Prairie?"

  7. OMG! I just remembered that I tried to comment on this when you first posted it, and it *wouldn't let me*!!!

    So now I am trying again, because I really want to tell you that I read and enjoyed Little Women, but I read and enjoyed Little Men so much more! And that if you haven't yet, you should so read it. The sequel. Jo grows up and runs a school.

  8. You know, I haven't read Little Men (probably because the title didn't really capture the interest of an eleven-year-old girl).. but I am totally going to read that now. Of course, I may have to read LIttle Women first, just for old-time's sake.

  9. I liked it better when I was a kid because it was more playful and the characters were younger, like me. There were serious issues but it didn't seem as life-and-death as Little Women. Of course it's possible that time has clouded my memory; I may have to reread it now, too!

    I hope you enjoy it!

  10. You are an astonishing talent. Really. I love Little Women. I named my youngest daughter after Josephine March.

  11. What a great name, and a great namesake. I, on the other hand, was named after a character from All My Children. Ha.