Sunday, 24 December 2017

A Few Things You Should Know About Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

(Note: In the UK, the novel known as Little Women is split into two parts: Little Women, which runs up until Meg gets engaged, and Good Wives. Typically both parts are adapted for screen under the title Little Women.)

In the summer of 2014, I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott in the back of the car. We were heading down South at the peak of the holiday season. The roads were packed. The world was a cacophony of blaring horns and growling engines. But I was worlds away with the families left behind by American Revolutionary soldiers. 

On Boxing Day, the first part of a new three part drama based on the novel will air on BBC One at 8pm. 

 Here are a few things you should know about Little Women.

"Christmas Won't Be Christmas without Any Presents..."

The story begins at Christmastime. It's set during the American Civil War and the girls' father is away fighting. The family is not poor, but they have fallen on hard times.

It's About Four Sisters

 Meg, the oldest, is the pretty one. She likes nice clothes and expensive jewellry, but she's not shallow.

Jo, the second oldest, is the character the narrative tends to focus on. She dreams of being a writer and spends a lot of time hanging out with Laurie, the boy next door.

Beth is the shy one. She's sweet, and good, and innocent... If you're familiar with classic novels, you can work out where this is going.

Amy, the youngest, is the artistic one. She's also a bit of a brat at first.

(One time, she burnt Jo's manuscript. It was not awesome.)

Their Problems are Still Relatable Today

Sibling squabbles, sneaking sweets into school, sickness... These are things that every generation has to deal with. Then there are more serious societal issues, such as the social conventions that Jo does not fit and Meg's dilemma as to whether she should marry for love or hold out for money. It might not be as exciting as fighting monsters or flying dragons, but it's real. 

The Story is Sweeter Than a Bag of Pickled Limes

It's a bit sickly due to all the moralising and the aesops, but I think it works in context.

Louisa May Alcott Was Irritated by the Obsession with Who the Girls Would Marry

The author was inundated with letters asking about who the girls would marry. Although marriage does become important later on, Louisa May Alcott was irritated by the implication that who a girl would marry was the most important thing in her life. The idea of Jo and Laurie getting together was clearly brought up as she famously wrote in her diary, "I won't marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone."

I'm not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed, especially considering who Jo does end up with.

The man who is, and I quote, "satisfied, for though no words passed between them, he knew that she had given up writing." - Louisa May Alcott, Good Wives 

This Isn't the First Time it's Been Adapted

To date there have been film adaptations of Little Women in 1917 and 1918 (both silent films), 1933, 1949, and 1994. The most recent of these starred Winona Ryder as Jo. There have also been book adaptations, for example Family Fan Club by Jean Ure which brought the book into the modern day.

Little Women is a classic coming of age story. Does it have its problems? Sure. But I can't think of a story more fitting to curl up with on a cold winter's day.

Have you read Little Women?  


  1. I almost never DNF, but I absolutely DNFed this one, at maybe 75% (of both parts in one book). It was just too much, I guess I couldn't stand the moralizing :D

    1. I've only read the first part (the second part is still on my TBR, which is why I noted that over here it's in two parts at the top), so I'll see if I can still take the moralising when I get there! :')

  2. Lovely post! I definitely agree that their problems are still relatable today

    1. Thanks! I think that's one of the reasons why it read so well for sixteen year old me. :)

  3. Ooh, a narrative about sickness and a perfect victim ... because of course we've never seen that in Victorian Lit before!

    I honestly tend to steer clear of most classics which have any theme of disability or sickness because they tend to annoy me so much. That said, if heard a lot of good things about Little Women, so maybe I'll give it a try.

    1. To be honest, I wouldn't say Beth was perfect. She might have been seen to be at the time, but her shyness is a massive limiter on her life. She dropped out of school because of it.

      Yeah, I get that. Some classics are honestly unbearable.

  4. I actually don't think I've ever read Little Women. I like that Alcott stood up for her girls, even if you didn't end up loving who Jo married. :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. I do like that she wouldn't bow to popular opinion - I admire her principles. :)

      Amy and Laurie suit each other fine, and Jo and Bhaer would too...except that he is the reason that Jo gives up writing. :/

  5. I used to watch Little Women (1949) with my grandparents and loved it! I need to catch up on this year's adaptation.

    1. I've seen the Winona Ryder film, but not the 1949 one. And yes! Watch the new adaption! The final part just finished and I really enjoyed it! :)