Tag Archives: Little Women

Why do we still love “Little Women”? Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters Answers the Question

Just in time for the 150th anniversary this September of the publication of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel comes Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters (W. W. Norton & Company, $27.95 hardcover). This delightful and illuminating book tells the story of the novel that has captured the imaginations of generations of young readers and adults alike, and explores its phenomenal staying power.

Author Anne Boyd Rioux, who first read Little Women in her twenties and fell in love with it, tells us the unlikely story of the novel’s creation, beginning with the moment in September of 1867 that Louisa May Alcott was asked to write a book for girls. Alcott, who had always wished she were a boy, wrote in her journal that she “never liked girls or knew any” other than her sisters. Despite her initial reservations to write a book specifically for girls, she accepted the assignment for the same reason she had written so many other stories for publication: she needed the money to support her family.

A year later, on September 30, 1868, the first part of Little Women was published to great acclaim. The first printing sold out in a matter months. Fans clamored for a sequel, desperate to know the futures of the March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Alcott finished the novel’s second part by the end of 1868, completing a story that would shape children’s books, influence American literature, and inspire generations up until today.

In Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Rioux tells the story of the Alcott family and how they inspired the novel. Bronson Alcott, Louisa’s transcendentalist father, championed his daughters in their creative pursuits but was ultimately unable to provide for his family. Abigail May Alcott, the Marmee of the Alcott girls, while a steadying force, had times of depression and confessed to feeling angry nearly every day of her life. Rioux details how the lives of each of Louisa’s sisters—Anna, Lizzie, and May—paralleled those of their fictional counterparts, and how Louisa came to be thought of by readers, who would make unannounced visits to her house, as nearly interchangeable with Jo.

Rioux also traces the novel’s influence through the 150 years since its publication and its appearances on Broadway, radio, television, and three times, so far, on the silver screen. She also describes the character of Jo’s notable influence on diverse women writers as a model to which they could aspire and explains how characters, including Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games series, can be seen as her descendants.

The book is ultimately a tribute to the novel that has played a vital role in the way decades of girls understood family, sisterhood, love, and their own capabilities. Rioux rightfully places the importance of both Louisa May Alcott and her great work in the fabric of American literature.

PBS’ “Little Women” remake marches along with Angela Lansbury, Michael Gambon and Emily Watson

One of Louisa May Alcott’s most beloved novels is being adapted and remade again, this time for PBS. Save the date:  MASTERPIECE: Little Woman premieres on May 13 and May 20; the Blu-ray and DVD hit stores May 22. The program will also be available for digital download.

 Set against the backdrop of a country divided, the story follows the four March sisters on their journey from childhood to adulthood while their father is away at war. Under the guidance of their mother Marmee, the girls navigate what it means to be a young woman: from gender roles to sibling rivalry, first love, loss and marriage. Accompanied by the charming boy next door Laurie Laurence, their cantankerous wealthy Aunt March and benevolent neighbor Mr. Laurence, Little Women is a coming-of-age story that is as relevant and engaging today as it was on its original publication in 1868.

Little Women is one of the most-loved novels in the English language, and with good reason,” says writer and executive producer Heidi Thomas. “Its humanity, humor, and tenderness never date, and as a study of love, grief, and growing up it has no equal. There could be no better time to revisit the story of a family striving for happiness in an uncertain world.”

Heading the cast are Emily Watson as Marmee, the devoted mother of the four adolescent March girls; Michael Gambon as Mr. Laurence; and Angela Lansbury as the March family matriarch, Aunt March.

The March sisters—the “little women” of the title—feature newcomer Maya Hawke as the willful and adventurous Jo; Willa Fitzgerald as the eldest and most virtuous, Meg; Annes Elwy as the shy sister, Beth; and Kathryn Newton  as Amy, the youngest of the family.

Also appearing are Jonah Hauer-King  as Laurie, the loveable boy next door; Dylan Baker  as Mr. March, who is serving as a chaplain with the Union Army; Julian Morris as John Brooke, Laurie’s cultured and handsome tutor; and Mark Stanley  as the charming Professor Bhaer.

A celebration of family as much as it is a recognition of the challenges of growing up and forging an individual identity, the program remains relevant due to the universal themes at its core. Backed by a nearly all-female creative team, Thomas’ adaptation doesn’t shy away from tackling the darker, more complex emotions the March family experiences. Drawing from a novel that was well ahead of its time the show speaks to current issues as much as it does to the issues women faced at the turn of the 20th century.

Devotees of the original novel will relish the book’s indelible scenes in this MASTERPIECE production: the cruel fate of Jo’s manuscript, Amy’s accident on the ice, Meg’s first ball, Beth and the forbidden piano, the pickled limes affair, and many other cherished episodes in a journey to a bygone time.

Although modern society would be disorienting in the extreme to the March sisters, Thomas notes that even today “girls are still confused about their desires and their desirability, and the passage from innocence to experience is more turbulent than ever.”

“We need hope, and we need empathy,” Thomas adds. “We need laughter, and we need catharsis, we need joy and inspiration. Little Women gives us all of these things.”