When I was seven years old, my mom brought home a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women for me to devour. At the time it was the thickest book I’d ever received and the text was miniscule. I quickly realized that it was going to take me at least a month to get through the whole thing. I mean, I was seven. The last book I’d read involved World War II.
It wasn’t going to be an easy journey, reading this tale of four sisters in the 1800s. The thought of picking up Molly Learns a Lesson flew through my head. I didn’t really NEED to read this book, did I? Nevertheless, I skimmed the first page. Might as well give it a try, I thought.
I finished it in two days.
In the fifteen years since, I’ve read Little Women at least once every year, more if I feel stressed out. I’ve read it so many times that my copy is literally falling apart. The spine is cracked and frayed, the pages are brown with age and the covers have come apart.
I still haven’t quite figured out what it is about the March sisters that captivated me all those years ago. I think that’s the reason I keep rereading the book. There are times when I feel much like Meg, yearning for love and respect. Amy’s insecurities speak to me, when I am unable to have all the things I want. I go between resenting and admiring Beth’s selflessness. Lastly, I’d be lying if I said that Jo’s own passion for writing didn’t light a similar spark in me.
A few years after I first read the novel, I heard about a film version starring Winona Ryder and Christian Bale. Keep in mind, this was the 90s and the wave of book-to-movie adaptations hadn’t quite become a thing. I was curious and nervous all at the same time–what if they got it all wrong and ruined the book for me?
You get virtual cookies if you guessed that I fell just as hard for this movie as I did for the book. Again, it’s still not something I fully understand, but all I know is that my heart dissolves into fuzzy feelings whenever I watch it. The reasons are many, but one of them is definitely this guy:
I’ve never had a crush on Christian Bale (I KNOW I KNOW), but Laurie is one of my all-time favourite literary characters. Christian portrayed him wonderfully and I loved how the conversations between Jo and Laurie came alive in the film. I appreciate their friendship more than I do the relationship Laurie wanted so badly to start with Jo.
While I’m ambivalent to most of the couples in the book, Meg and Mr. Brooke do stand out for me. I’ve always been interested in how a relationship proceeds into the “happily-ever-after,” and Meg and John were my first encounter with the challenges of married life. My favourite chapter involves Meg having to confess to spending $50 on a silk gown. She knows that it’s an unnecessary expense but does it anyway. I love this chapter because it highlights all the things an ideal marriage should have: a sense of equality, respect and love. Meg and John talk it over and make their decisions out of a mutual love and not because of any societal norms. It does make me sad that this was never shown in the film.
I know it must seem like I say this about every film or show that I write about on this blog, but more so for this underrated classic: Little Women changed me irrevocably. As I go on, I still find little ways in which the March sisters have influenced the way I see the world around me. I’m learning to be content with myself, like Meg, and selfless, like Beth. Jo’s courage reminds me to take chances and Amy’s determination inspires me every day.
I may not have sisters of my own, but I’ll always be grateful for the gift of meeting the Marches.