I will admit that I am not a big fan of novels deemed “classics” by old scholars. Though I can appreciate the literature as a piece of history, I simply happen to favor more contemporary works. Beginning in my younger years when I decided the older a book was the worse it was, my stubborn conviction took a little while to shed– and I am very grateful for the book that started that process.
I was only ten years old when my grandmother gifted me a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women on Christmas morning. Though I was tentative at first to crack it open, it soon became apparent that this book would change my life forever. Since that Christmas a decade ago, I have reread the book multiple times and wept each time.
For those who haven’t read it, I highly encourage you to do so. It follows the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, and their mother, Marmee, during the years of the Civil War. With all four of them under sixteen years old, they go through struggles related to both their youth and current events. As the book progresses through the years and ends with the characters in adulthood, you see the March family experience triumphs and struggles of all sorts while working through them as a team. Though their life events occurred in a different place and time, the lessons and wholesome encouragements ring true even today. It is the atmosphere created by such a loving family that comforts me in my own times of trouble and keeps me coming back to its pages.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is the individuality of each March sister. Alcott created each girl to have distinct characteristics– Beth’s gentleness and kindness, Meg’s protective and mothering instincts, Jo’s passion and independence, and Amy’s artistry and confidence. As I have grown and changed, I have been able to identify in increasing amounts with each sister and their dreams. I think it is powerful that anyone who reads this book will be able to find themselves in at least one of the characters and be inspired by their strengths as they tackle what it means to be human.
Being so well-beloved, Alcott’s book has been adapted several times to the silver screen, the most recent being Greta Gerwig’s film. I found this particular movie to be the one that best captured the fiery love between the March girls and conveyed to a modern audience the power in each of their journeys. Having cherished this book for half of my life, it meant the world to see it come to life before my eyes and empower me all over again. Whether you enter Louisa May Alcott’s world by the old classic or the new adaptation, I promise you’ll come away having learned something from the strong, featured women.