This past weekend, my partner in life and writing, JT Hume, watched Little Women for the first time. This is a story I’ve long been familiar with, as mentioned in our podcast last Sunday, and I was interested to know what he would think of one of my old favorites. For more on JT’s first viewing of Little Women, you’ll just have to listen to our episode!
Little Women was one of my formative childhood books. I have strong memories of time spent in the school library going through the shelves in search of my next read. One of my oh-so-helpful librarians recommended Little Women to me when I was in late elementary school (maybe fourth or fifth grade).
Louisa May Alcott’s book was more than a century old by the time I read it for the first time. I didn’t have much knowledge of history at that time. The characters of Marmee, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy were so relatable the historic element didn’t matter at first. The female-centric story related to my family experiences with my mother, aunt, grandmother, and female cousin. We tended to do things around the house like cooking and sewing; though I also worked outdoors with my male relatives – in some ways I might have been considered a bit of a tomboy since I felt comfortable in both the traditional male and female spheres.
I gravitated toward the main character of Jo March (Louisa May Alcott’s counterpart). In many ways, I wanted to be more like her: a strong-willed female who knew what she wanted from life. My personality at the time was really more like Meg’s, though, which felt disappointing since she was so darned domestic. Looking back all these years later, I associate more with Marmee, because I’ve now experienced the parental side of life. Overall, I do feel a bit of an amalgamation of all five main characters, which is the strength of Little Women. Alcott managed to create a group of people to whom anyone could relate.
The story lurked in the back of my mind until my own kids were about the age I’d been when I first read the book. My middle child, especially, shared my enjoyment of Jo’s story. The four of us also watched the 1994 version together on multiple occasions. Thinking about Little Women so much recently makes me want to read the book (and watch the movie) all over again. Seeing my kids enjoy something I’d liked so much added another level of warm nostalgia to the story.
While I still enjoy Little Women, I’d be inclined to examine the life of Louisa May Alcott from the historical perspective. I’d also like to know about the times and the people who influenced her: her parents Abigail and Bronson Alcott, as well as men such as Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Longfellow.
If you haven’t read Little Women, the story stands the test of time and remains interesting to this day. Especially if you’re interested in history. There are actually three books total: Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys. While I’ve read the others, my favorite of the trio will always be the first book.
This time of year is perfect for cozying up with a hot drink under a warm blanket to delve into a book like Little Women. Warning: just be sure to keep a box of tissues handy.