Tag Archives: Louisa May Alcott

Little Women Character Review: Professor Friedrich Bhaer

*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.

Sometimes, the best romantic relationships/marriages are not formed by the thumping together of two bodies, but of the melding of two minds. In Little Women, Professor Friedrich Bhaer is introduced towards the end of the novel. In his early 40’s, Friedrich is German émigré who is raising his orphaned nephews. Earning his living as a tutor, he meets Jo March when he is staying at the boarding house where she is working for the owner of the boarding house as a nanny.

Both are intellectual, have a good heart and find in each other the mental stimulation that will become the foundation of their relationship. While they start off as friends, Jo and Friedrich will go on to have two sons and a happy marriage. But not before they have a few disagreements in regards to Jo’s writing.

To sum it up: romance can start in a number of ways. It doesn’t always have to be the ooey gooey love at the first kind. It can be the relationship where the couple starts off as friends who are intellectually inspired by one another before it becomes sexual or romantic. As a writer, I prefer that type of romance because it feels organic and natural. But that is a decision that every writer must make for themselves.

 

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Little Women Character Review: Margaret “Marmee” March

*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.

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Little Women Character Review: Laurie Laurence

*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.

First love is an experience that stays with us always. While it is more than likely that the relationship does not grow beyond youth, that person will always have a place in our hearts. In Little Women, Theodore Laurence, known as either Teddy or Laurie, is the boy next door. He has been besties with Jo March for years and has secretly been in love with her for most of their friendship.

On paper, Laurie would be a good match for Jo. The world that Laurie and Jo live in is still ruled on a certain level by social rank and income. The Laurence family, being of a higher social rank and a higher income than the March family, would be a step up for Jo. But despite Laurie’s best efforts, Jo turns him down. She understands that their marriage would not be a happy one. Laurie initially sulks like a school boy after Jo turns him down, but ends up going to Europe. While is Europe, he reunited with Jo’s younger sister Amy, whom he does fall in love with and marry.

To sum it up: Sometimes, as we grow up, we have figure out who is best for us. We may wish, hope and pray that our first love, whomever he or she will be, will be our last love. But for many, learning that our first love will not be our last love is often a painful growing experience. As writers, when creating this experience for our characters, it is incumbent that we demonstrate why this couple is not meant to be. If we do not demonstrate why this couple is meant to be, the writer has not done his or her job and leaves too many questions unanswered.

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Why I Re-Read Little Women

We often come back to our favorite books because it takes us back to a comfortable and happy place.

Recently, I finished re-reading Little Women.

Published in 1868 and written by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women is the story of the four March sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy), growing up and coming of age in Civil War era New England. Meg is the proper eldest child, Jo is the tomboy, Beth is the homebody and Amy is the diva.

As the sisters grow and mature, each faces her own challenges on the way to adulthood.

Little Women still resonates because none of the sisters completely fits the stereotype that she is based on. Many readers (myself included) will also see themselves in more than one sister and may change who they relate to as they themselves grow and mature.

The book, at its heart, is about the relationships between the sisters. They have their fair share of disarrangement’s, but at the end of the day, the girls know that if there is no one else to turn to, her sisters will be there.

Alcott also wisely decided to make the marriage plot secondary. While, Meg, Jo and Amy do eventually marry (I won’t give away what happens to Beth if you haven’t read the novel), the narrative is not solely about the girls finding husbands.

And that is why I re-read Little Women.

 

 

 

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Little Women Character Review: Amy March

*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.

When it comes to the youngest child in a large family, it is often the case that he or she may be spoiled and/or babied by their parents and elder siblings. In Little Women, Amy March is the youngest of the four March sisters. Introduced to the reader as a pre-teen, Amy is a proud child who is used to being spoiled and babied by her parents and her sisters. She also has quite the dramatic streak and like Jo, can be temperamental at times.

She starts to grow up with a couple of events that will change the course of her life: nearly freezing to death in a lake and losing her elder sister, Beth. Eventually, she married Laurie Laurence, her long time neighbor who is also Jo’s bestie. An artist by heart and by nature, one of Amy’s great loves is her art.

While Amy never truly gives up the need to be popular or an eye on the finer things in life, she grows up to become a woman with a heart and a sense of gratitude.

To sum it up: Growing up is not and has never been a straight line. It is a zig zag,  a winding road that has pitfalls and challenges. There maybe some metaphorical potholes that cause a metaphorical skinned knee along the way. Like all of us, Amy does grow up, but not before having a few metaphorical skinned knees of her own along the way.  As writers, when creating characters who grow from childhood to adulthood over the course of the narrative, it is our job to ensure that audience/reader relates to the character’s growth from childhood to adulthood.

Amy March endures because her narrative is comparable to any coming of age story. The writer who is writing their own coming of age story ought to remember Amy’s story, because it is how a coming of age story should be written.

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Little Women Miniseries Review

For many young bookworms (especially if they are female), Little Women is one of the literary gateway drugs to other classic novels.

Last night, the first episode of the new miniseries aired on PBS.

Stepping into the shoes of the immortal March sisters is Willa Fitzgerald (Meg), Maya Hawke (Jo), Annes Elwy (Beth) and Kathryn Newton (Amy). Emily Watson plays Marmee and Jonah Hauer-King plays Laurie, Jo’s bestie/the boy next door.

I have mixed feelings about the first episode. Written by Heidi Thomas (best known as creator and show runner of Call The Midwife) was tasked with quite a challenge: condense the narrative as it is in the novel into a miniseries. While she hit all of the right narrative notes (including not making the story too sweet and allowing all four of the March sisters to share the spotlight), I just felt like something was missing. While I completely understand this is a miniseries and not a feature-length film (but then again, not all film adaptations of beloved books adhere 100% to the narrative in the source material), I just feel like something is missing.

Do I recommend it? Possibly yes.

Episodes two and three consecutively on May 20th at 8pm EST on PBS. 

 

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Little Women Character Review: Beth March

*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.

There is an old Jewish saying: may you live until 120.While the ideal is that we should all live into our golden years, the sad reality is that death can sadly strike the young as well as the old.

In Little Women, Beth March is the third of the four March girls. Unlike her sisters, she is a homebody who rarely socializes outside of her immediate circle. She always has a giving heart and a shoulder to lean on when needed. Beth is also an accomplished musician who likes nothing more than to play on the family piano.

The ying to Jo’s yang, she is the calm in the eye of the storm when Jo is temperamental and blowing up like a volcano. Unfortunately, Beth dies young after contracting an illness when she visited a family whose circumstances are much worse than the March’s.

To sum it up: Every story has a heart. It may make you laugh or it may make you cry, but it is always there. Beth is the heart of Little Women. She is the representation of all that is good in the world. Ultimately, that heart breaks when Beth dies, but it is always there, even if is there only in spirit.

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Little Women Character Review: Jo March

*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.

For most of human history, there was a certain expectation of how women ought to behave. But even with the weight of those expectations, there are always a few women who have the courage or the instinct to follow their gut instead of blindly following the rules.

Jo March is one of these women.

Jo is the second eldest of the four March sisters. She is a tomboy, she is outspoken to the point of being temperamental at times and is far from ladylike. If she had her way, she would have been born a boy instead of a girl. She also wants to be a writer.

The reader meets Jo when she is in her mid-teens. At that point in her life, like many teenagers, she is rebelling against everything around her. She wants to be a boy and enjoy the freedoms that a boy has. Instead, she is a girl and bound to rules of what it is to be a girl. She alternatively fights and loves her sisters, while receiving sage advice from her mother.

Jo is best friends with Laurie, the boy next door. While on the surface, he would be a good match for her, but Jo knows in her heart that it would not be a happy marriage.

In the end, Jo is not only content in her own skin, but also finds happiness with Professor Bhaer, a German professor who she meets while briefly living in New York.

To sum it up: Sometimes the journey of a character is simple recipe: self-confidence and the instinct to follow what you know is right instead of just following the crowd. Over the course of the book, Jo grows from a young girl itching to find her place in the world to a woman who has not only found that place, but has also found the confidence to be herself. That is a journey that is both memorable and worth watching. It’s no wonder that Jo March is character the reader and audiences are still drawn to more than a century after they were first introduced to her.

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Little Women Character Review: Meg March

*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.

There is something to be said about birth order and personality. In Little Women, Meg March is the oldest of four March girls. The March family is today what we would call middle class. They are not super wealthy, but they are not poor either. The book starts as The Civil War rages on, the girl’s father is fighting for the North. To supplant the family income, Meg works as a governess for a local family. Like many first-born children, Meg often acts as a secondary parent to her younger sisters.

But that does not mean that Meg is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. She is still growing up, trying to figure out who she is and how she wants to live her life. Along the way, she lets her wealthy friends turn her into their personal makeover project and eventually marries John Brooke (who shall be discussed at a later date), who according to Aunt March (who will also be discussed at a later date) is not an appropriate match.

To sum it up: Archetypes are one facet of character development. But the archetype is only the skeleton of the character. It is up to the writer to flesh out the character and make them feel alive. Meg March feels alive because despite being the archetypal responsible and level-headed first-born, she still has her imperfections and her faults. That is why audiences and readers still keep going back to Meg and the rest of the characters in Little Women more than a century after the original publication date.

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Thoughts On The Anniversary Of The Publishing Of Little Women

Late last month was the 149th anniversary of the publishing of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

Little Women for those unaware, is the story of the four March sisters growing up in Civil War era Massachusetts. Their father is away, fighting for the Union, leaving his wife, known as Marmee to her daughters, to be both mother and father.

Meg, the oldest, is level-headed and responsible. Jo (short for Josephine), is the tomboy, the son her father never had and the wannabe writer. Beth is the homebody who rarely socializes outside of her family circle. Amy, the baby of the family, is artistic, but spoiled and selfish. Living in genteel poverty, the girls, the mother and their longtime housekeeper, Hannah do the best they can under their circumstances.

What I love about this book is that it is so universal. While the sisters are archetypes, Alcott brilliantly fleshed them out so they are fully formed characters. She also allows her characters to grow in a very organic way, instead of forcing adulthood upon them. There is also, as there is often is with books by female writers before the modern era, an undercurrent of feminism.

It’s been 23 years since the last film adaptation of Little Women was released.

Next year, PBS will be airing their own adaptation of Little Women.

When I think of Little Women, I think of how much I understand these girls and their journey. I also think how much this book mean to me when I was growing up and how it led me to become the bookworm I am today.

Louisa May Alcott, thank you for this amazing, wonderful book that continues to last. May the book and your legacy live forever.

 

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