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Interview any woman writer and odds are they will bring up Jo March.
Everyone from Nora Ephron to J. I suspect many of these women are the same women who love Elizabeth Bennet. Both Lizzie and Jo are brash, witty, literary, and unafraid to stand up to the men in their lives. They both resist the status-quo, constantly searching for authenticity in a world of superficiality.
I can't remember my first encounter with the March family, but I also can't remember a time when I wasn't aware of them. I must have had Little Women read to me, probably by my grandmother, the person in my family who introduced me to so many beautiful fictional worlds. My grandma's favorite, however, was Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy series and it was these girls' adventures along with Tib, a later addition to the seriesand not the March sisters, that dominated my childhood imagination.
When I rediscovered Little Women as an adult I was enthralled. I loved Jo's courage, honesty, and big heart.
Of course, like all bookish souls, I also identified with her determination to write and her lust for adventure. Based on the trailer it looks like they include the important scene with Jo and Beth at the beach - almost always cut in film adaptations - so this is exciting. No surprise Director Greta Gerwig also cites Jo as her personal heroine. Read my review here.
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A telegram has arrived with news that shocks the March family - Mr. March, away fighting in the Civil War, has been gravely injured - Mrs. March Marmie must get a train right away to be at his side. Jo steals off during the general mayhem and sells her hair.
Jo brushes off the concern and shock. Yet we quickly learn that Jo is not quite as confident as she appears. That night her sister Meg hears her crying and assumes she is weeping with worry over their ailing father. The truth is that Jo is mourning the loss of her lustrous mane after all. Jo March, confident, witty, and bold on the outside, is actually a very sensitive soul.
Here is a heroine who is not perfect. In fact, Jo is incredibly flawed.
She is often selfish and thoughtless. She loves having all her sisters at home with her and resents Meg for wanting to pursue a family life of her own. Her mother warns her not to let a passing moment ruin her relationship with Amy, but Jo is inconsolable.
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Ultimately Amy, distraught and filled with regret, nearly drowns under the ice when trying to keep up with Jo and Laurie. Luckily Amy survives and Jo is spared the regret of having disowned a sister for a momentary lapse of judgement. She also must come to the realization that no matter how much money she earns from her stories and no matter how many restorative seaside holidays she can pay for, Beth is still going to die.
And even in her moments of self-sacrificing heroism like when she cuts her hairJo is often much more scared and conflicted than she lets on. Yet it is in these moments that she earns our adoration most of all. Here is a young woman plagued by so many recognizable flaws - selfishness, egoism, a need for control - and yet, she fights valiantly against the darker parts of her own nature, insisting on creating a life of meaning, purpose, and authenticity.
Having moved to New York for a taste of la vie boheme Jo has been writing frantically.
She has made new friends and is enjoying actually earning a decent amount of money from her writing. She has been selling stories of high drama involving fainting ladies, monsters, vampires, and exciting duels.
Yet, during a German lesson with her new friend Professor Bhaer, she learns what he thinks of stories like hers. Jo is deeply hurt. The Professor sees her blush and realizes his faux-pas. Most modern readers hate this scene. They see the professor as an old fuddy-duddy trying to put Jo, a forward-thinking young woman, in her place.
He knows Jo is a remarkably intelligent and capable woman. He knows she can do better. She realizes that while she may be paying the bills, she is not advancing as a writer.
She knows she is capable of deeper, truer works of art. Jo is always pushing herself to do better and ultimately she appreciates those people in her life who challenge her. I think many women, writers in particular, recognize this need for authentic mentors.
She may dream of fighting duels in foreign lands, but ultimately her greatest battles are with the very ordinary evils of anger, selfishness, and fear. And when at last Jo and Professor Bhaer realize their love for one another, he is deeply moved .
Thou gifest me such hope and courage, and I haf nothing to gif back but a full heart and these empty hands," cried the Professor, quite overcome. Jo never, never would learn to be proper, for when he said that as they stood upon the steps, she just put both hands into his, whispering tenderly, "Not empty now," and stooping down, kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella.
How we adore Jo in this scene! Even if Jo had ended up a successful single writer, her character development would still hinge on the love she was willing to give and receive. Jo teaches us that our words have meaning.
The stories we tell and the stories we live matter. With each adaptation of Little Women new audiences are rediscovering the endless allure of a woman in pursuit of greatness. Jo gives us permission to pursue authentic art and authentic love in a world often opposed to both. We all want to be Jo March because in many ways, in the most important ways, we already are.
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Sep Katie Marquette. It is hard to overstate what she meant to a small, plain girl called Jo, who had a hot temper and a burning ambition to be a writer.
Credit: WikiCommons. And when at last Jo and Professor Bhaer realize their love for one another, he is deeply moved - "Ah! Show 6 comments.