Little Women and the Prevailing Spirit of Jo March

Passion for the Arts is a feeling many have, especially at the moment, when the Arts can feel so distant. Thus, I recently revisited one of my favourite literary characters, and most willing of souls: Jo March. The ambitious and passionate girl who was never ashamed into admitting she was different, but also how she didn’t care much for societies views into how the “Little Women” were meant to fit in. I feel I understand Jo March, with her immensely compelling personality, her own style, and feelings, for she understands how the world works, learning it all from studying other’s lives in books.

Little Women is one of the most important novels ever written, mainly as it doesn’t feel like you are simply reading a story, but an exploration of what it means to be young and to grow up. Alcott’s message is that part of growing up is making mistakes, as she implores the reader to be as yourself as you can possibly be. That’s where Little Women prospers, in showing how sometimes, people shy away from being different, in order to fit in, and then there was Jo March.

Jo is a girl who strays away from the “womanly” and “ladylike” manners young women were expected to have. In fact, it’s Aunt March who is little impressed by her loose mouth and rough ways. Yet, what we see here, is the longing every soul feels when they are looking for understanding as to how they are going to fit in. However, Jo soon realises she is going to have to accept she is different and that is no bad thing. In fact, it means she can prosper even more, with her knowledge in books and literature and theatre she loves so dearly.

After watching Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, it became clear that I wasn’t the only one who saw how Jo’s light shone through the book. Alcott’s Little Women finished with Jo accepting her place in the world, in aiding young boys to find their place in the world, being taught by her love for Professor Bhaer. As Jo said in the book, “I’ve always longed for lots of boys, and never had enough, now I can fill the house full and revel in the little dears to my heart’s content. Think what luxury – Plumfield my own, and a wilderness of boys to enjoy it with me!” This is truly the essence of the book’s finale, Jo accepting that her wild personality could be calmed by her helping other boys to fill their hearts with teaching and high spirits.

Yet what I found interesting, is the relationship Greta Gerwig chose to have with the book in the screen version in 2017. The movie ended with the book becoming published as Little Women which I found to be rather interesting as that wasn’t what the book’s point was. Jo chose to have a life which settled her spirit in the novel, for she undertook a greater mission, full well knowing the adventures would lead her to a published book.

Do we lose the point if we skip such a moment? Jo learns by the end that actually a simple, loving, kind and giving life is worth far more than chasing her wayward adventures. Aunt March even knew that Jo would suit a large house, full of spirit and adventure. Overall, she is a character with a multitude of flaws, for Amy fell through the ice in her rage, and Laurie had his heart broken due to her fierce determination of who she was. Yet, Professor Bhaer’s kind lesson in teaching, with no wealth to show for it, showed Jo a different path, one which meant she could have all her greatest wishes, her wayward spirit could float in the house, with other young boys spirit’s full of exuberance and elation.

Yet I feel this should have been the last scene in the movie, Jo holding each of her sister’s hands, Beth’s doll sitting comfortably on the long grassy bank, telling them how her life was fulfilled by her finding a new way to view life and that love had come to her in such a different form. Beth loved music, and Jo always played to her own tune. Beth knew this, and it would have been a far better ending for the audience to see that sometimes it’s okay for a dream to flourish in a different environment, but to flourish all the same.

After all, the point of a dream, as Jo would put it, would be to live in her own Castle in the Sky. In the end she found it, her own castle, her own house full of adventure, where her writing and dreams would live forever, and where her stories would be performed for years to come. The wonderful Jo March, who teaches us all that it’s through passion and love we will find our true purpose, and that sometimes to stray and become lost is where we will find what we seek the most – a life that we can lead others in love and kindness.

Words by Luke Emmett

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