I have a confession to make, and it’s that I’ve never actually read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I know what you’re thinking: that I’m a creative writing major and a feminist, and the main character is a spitfire feminist author! How have I never read it? The answer is pretty stupid, and it’s just that I think I tried to read it when I was too young to understand it. I picked up Little Women when I was probably six or seven, and after a chapter or two, I just couldn’t get into it at such a young age. I just never went back to it.
The only reason I paid any attention to the trailer for the 2019 adaption of Little Women when it was released was that it was directed by Greta Gerwig, who I’ve adored since I watched “Lady Bird.” It hooked me for some reason, and I watched the trailer probably fifty times in between when it was released online and when the movie came out in theaters. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and when it finally came time for me to see the movie, it didn’t disappoint in the slightest. From the first frame to the last second, I was absolutely enamored with everything about it: the score, the cinematography, but most of all the characters. I’ve always found myself in fictional characters - it’s part of why I love writing so much - but never have I identified with any one character, or loved a character, as much as I immediately loved Jo March.
The reason I love Jo March is that I see so much of myself in her: not only who I am right now, but who I aspire to be. She is raw and real and completely human. Jo’s struggle is that she’s torn between her ambitions for her career and her unwillingness to admit her desire for companionship because she feels that they are mutually exclusive. She loves to create, and she wants more than anything just to be known and remembered. She’s always writing, and her dream is to publish a novel and share her words with the world. She is fiercely ambitious.
What I love more than anything about Jo, though, is a fundamental part of her character that a lot of people tend to overlook: in the end, the people she loves come before everything. She loves her family, and despite her ambitions for her future, the idea of change and losing the people closest to her scares her more than anything in the world. Jo’s bonds with her sisters, though at times they bicker, are obviously incredibly strong and important to her. In the end, Jo’s success in writing (spoilers, obviously) doesn’t come from putting on a performance or making things up, because Jo doesn’t care about perfect, she cares about real. She writes a story about her family, and it’s her best story yet; in fact, it’s good enough to get her published.
Although Jo’s story takes place during the Civil War, the lessons she and the other characters of “Little Women” impart on the viewer and reader ring true even today. We live in a society where social media pushes us to act like we live perfect lives. Even the real-est of Instagrammers and most down to earth of influencers is trying to send a message to a group of people, to climb the ladder of success, to put on a certain image or be perceived a certain way. In the end, though, none of that matters. In the end, Jo March was willing to give up her dreams for the people she loved, and rather than suffering, her art thrived because of it. Jo never put on an image. As characters go, she is as real as they come. I hope that if she were real today and I had the chance to know her, I’d make her proud - not just with my words, but with who I am as a person.