Lately, Little Women has been popping up in my mind quite frequently. At a recent dinner party, one guest confused Little Women with Little House on the Prairie. (Here’s where I say, see, having a PhD in nineteenth-century women’s fiction is a wonderful party trick.) I also recently searched the Baby Lit archives to see which classics they’ve got, since Moby-Dick was a real hit with the little man. Perhaps Lottie would respond well to the March sisters?
Little Women has also been buzzy because Greta Gerwig has directed a new film adaption of the novel with a 21st-century cool-girl cast.
I mean, I just watched this now and thought, “Laura Dern is in this too? And Meryl Streep?” Make that “multi-generational cool-girl cast.”
Mostly, I realized, Little Women has been on my mind because it begins in December.
As young readers like to know ‘how people look’, we will take this moment to give them a little sketch of the four sisters, who sat knitting away in the twilight, while the December snow fell quietly without, and the fire crackled cheerfully within. It was a comfortable room, though the carpet was faded and the furniture very plain, for a good picture or two hung on the walls, books filled the recesses, chrysanthemums and Christmas roses bloomed in the windows, and a pleasant atmosphere of home peace pervaded it.
Appropriately, Gerwig’s film will be released on Christmas Day.
I did not actually read Little Women until graduate school — it was not a formative novel from my childhood or anything. So when I read the text, I was more focused on Louisa May Alcott and my research topic (domesticity and religion) and less so on a “which March sister are you” approach. Perhaps that is why I’m not so jazzed about Gerwig’s adaptation as my peers on the internet. Given how I responded to Lady Bird (I felt precisely 7 years younger than Gerwig and 7 years out of touch with the very specific high-school nostalgia in which that film indulged), I doubt I’d relate to whatever Gerwig’s version of this novel might be.
Having skimmed this piece, it seems there’s a chance Gerwig is trying to get at…something? I can appreciate the line, “As a girl, my heroine was Jo…As a woman, it’s Louisa May Alcott,” though I’m not sure I believe it. Ultimately, my guess is that this new version will be a 21st-century story and not a 19th-century one.
If you hadn’t guessed already, my plan is just to reread the novel itself. Why mess with it?
*Jo March, Chapter 4 of Little Women