If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is one of my two favourite books (the other is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee). My grandmother bought me a copy of Little Women when I was about eight years old. It had been her favourite book as a little girl, and she had hoped that I would enjoy it as much as she did. I fell in love with the story instantly, and have read it more times than I can count.
A few nights ago, I re-watched the film adaptation of Little Women for the umpteenth time. There are three film versions of the story that I’m aware of, but my favourite is the 1996 version, which stars Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Christian Bale and Susan Sarandon. I think the reason I like this one the best is that it was the first of the Little Women films I ever watched, and I saw it so many times as a child. While I was watching, I got to thinking about the four main characters.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, Little Women is about the four March sisters, and their lives during the American civil war. Each of the sisters have very distinct personalities and characteristics:
Meg: is the oldest of the March sisters. She is traditional and rather conservative. She is kind-hearted and somewhat romantic. She is probably the most level-headed of the four sisters. Meg’s downfall is her love of pretty and expensive things, which are scarce owing to the temporary poverty of the March family.
Josephine or Jo: is the feistiest of the sisters. She has a quick temper and is not afraid to voice her opinions. She is clever and witty, and has no time for feminine pursuits. She prefers to spend her time reading and writing, and finds it much easier to make friends with boys than girls.
Beth: is the most timid of the sisters. She is so shy that she couldn’t stand to attend school, and has been home-schooled all her life. Beth is happiest at home, with her dolls and kittens. She is the most generous of the sisters, devoting much of her time to helping people who are less fortunate than her. Physically, Beth is weak and prone to illness.
Amy: is the youngest March sister. She is vain and longs for the finer things in life. She is very creative, and has exceptional artistic talent. Amy has a temper, although it is not quite as fiery as Jo’s. Amy is not particularly clever, but she is charming and flirtatious.
Once, my grandmother and I had a conversation about the four sisters. My grandmother was one of four sisters herself, and she and her siblings loved Little Women, because they each felt as though they identified with one of the sisters. It has been my experience that most fans of the book tend to gravitate towards one of the sisters.
When I was a little girl, my favourite was always Beth. I could relate to her shyness and I felt that her sweetness was something to be aspired to. As I have grown older, I have found myself preferring Jo over the other March sisters. I think I see a lot of myself in Jo. We both share quick tempers and the tendency to get in trouble with the things we say. We are both writers, who are happiest either burying our noses in a book or creating a literary work of our own. Both of us have had more friendships with boys than girls. For me, Jo is the March sister that I feel I have the most in common with, so I tend to view her as my favourite.
Did you read Little Women as a child? If so, do you have a favourite March sister? Is your favourite the one you identify most closely with