Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation. Feel free to comment even if you are not officially participating! This week’s question is:
Which March sister from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is your favorite and why? Do you agree with the way their lives played out?
Most literature lovers seem to pick Jo March as their favorite sister, and I am no exception. Amy always annoyed me with her airs and petulant attitude. Meg was too responsible for me to find her truly interesting, though I think her love story is charming. Beth…well, I like Beth. But I don’t relate to her ability to be perpetually neat and good. That leaves Jo.
Jo charms me for more reasons than her love of stories, however–the other girls also like stories, even if they don’t end up writing them. Jo is trying to find her place in the world and she often finds that she doesn’t fit in at all. Her penchant for boyish mannerisms, her discomfort in fancy social gatherings, and her love of the outdoors all make her stick out as oddity in the Civil War era. She knows it, too, But she doesn’t let the opinions of others sway her, unless she realizes that she has done something bad or thoughtless or rude. She remains true to herself and she ends up with her own happy ending in her own good time–indeed, long after she has come to expect it. I relate to her desire to figure out her path in life, her feelings of inadequacy at times as she bumbles along, her longing to find people who appreciate her. Jo is a misfit, but she is one who triumphs–and I think she speaks to any reader who has felt out of place.
Of course, there’s the matter of Laurie. [Spoilers for Little Women in the next two paragraphs if you haven’t read it.] Many readers want Jo to marry Laurie, but Louisa May Alcott emphatically declared she wouldn’t do it to please anyone. And she didn’t. This never perturbed me. Jo and Laurie work nicely as chums, and I like seeing a boy-girl friendship represented that does not turn into a romance. Boys and girls truly can be friends! I am far more annoyed by Laurie’s subsequent engagement to Amy–she’s so annoying, I just don’t see them together. Am I supposed to think they belong together just because Amy likes fine things and Laurie is conveniently rich? We don’t see enough of them interacting in a not-awkward manner for me to decide. I think Laurie just fell in love with her looks.
Thankfully, Jo gets a decent ending. It’s surprising to be sure and I would not have predicted it, but she’s happy with her professor and I think that’s all that matters. Plus his way of courting her and getting to know the family is utterly charming. I die a little inside every time I read their exchange as they go shopping. So much miscommunication. So many dashed dreams. But, then…
Yes, a good romance leaves me speechless and I think Alcott gives us that. So I am happy with Jo’s ending. And happy it led to two sequels!