Little Women Grown Up
Little Women is one of those universal stories that you can read and love as a 12-year-old little girl, and again as a 24-year-old woman. But perhaps I’m getting a bit more reality out of it now than I did 12 years ago.
When I picked it up two weeks ago, I thought of how disappointed I was when I watched the movie years ago because clearly Jo was supposed to marry Laurie. Wasn’t that implied in the book! How dare these scheming movie directors give him to pretty and perfect Amy!
I must have been looking for a love story formed in childhood, trying to validate whatever crush I had at the time, convincing myself that this boy was the ONE…even if we were still in elementary school. Because here I am, with only 100 pages to go, and it’s pretty clear that Jo and Laurie are not meant to be.
He proposed, she doesn’t love him and said no, and now he’s all fumy and rebellious off in Europe. And Marmee is right, they are too much alike in their temperaments and their sense of adventure. There’s no give in their relationship and their union would probably lead to utter disappointment.
So why did I think that Louisa May Alcott supported their inevitable marriage? Given Marmee’s savvy advice throughout the story, including her refreshingly modern counseling on Meg’s marriage, I’d say that she’s usually right when it comes to her girls.
Somewhere between preadolescence and my twenties, I’ve learned that women have a sense of wisdom that should be trusted. Because the first time I read this, I didn’t believe Jo when she told her Teddy that she didn’t love him. And I didn’t believe Marmee’s advice that they were too much alike. I didn’t believe my own mother’s advice that I had plenty of time to date and find the right guy or when she told me there was someone better than the schmuck I dated in high school and the unambitious boy in college. But now I see that they are right.
Hindsight can be a bitch. But it can also be a good lesson. The next time I watch the movie, I’ll judge it a little less. And as I enter into marriage, I’ll try to pay more heed to the women around me. Especially Marmee.
Update: So it turns out that when I was little I actually only read Part 1 of Little Women. Not Part 2, The Good Wives, which is where all the Amy & Laurie stuff comes in. Who knew? In any case, I’m glad I decided to re-read it and discover that!