*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or have seen any of the adaptations.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Little Women to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
A girl’s first role model is her mother. More than providing food, shelter, warmth and clean clothes, a good mother does her best to guide and teach her daughter as she grows up. In Little Women, Margaret March, the mother of the titular heroines is known to her daughters are Marmee.
When the audience is introduced to Marmee, she is for all intents and purposes, a single parent raising four teenage girls. With her husband is fighting for the Union, Marmee is doing the best she can with limited resources. While she is a practical woman who completely understands what needs to be done to keep her family going, she is not without a heart. Early on the in the novel, at Marmee’s request, the family gives their Christmas dinner to another family who has much less than they have.
In a certain sense, Marmee is a modern mother. She is not a helicopter parent, and allows daughters to make mistakes, even when she knows the mistakes are preventable. While she completely understands that her girls must marry one day, Marmee is not the matchmaking mama who throws her daughters at every eligible man in sight. She wants them to have solid marriages to men who respect and love her girls in the way that they deserve to be respected and loved. She also wants her girls to stand on their own two feet, well, as much as they could in the 1860’s.
To sum it up: In creating Marmee, Alcott understood the impact a mother has on her daughter. While Marmee, like anyone, has her weaknesses and difficulties, she does her best as a mother. Many times in fiction, especially classic fiction, mothers are dead, forever embarrassing their children or emotionally absent as a parent. Alcott broke the mold, creating a mother who while thoroughly human, is being the best parent she can be. That is what any reader or child could ask for.