Why Jo March Is My Favourite Little Woman

SPOILERS AHEAD

When I first started reading Little Women, I didn’t expect to fall in love with Jo so much. I certainly didn’t plan on her becoming one of my favourite literary characters ever, along with Cathy Earnshaw and Elizabeth Bennet. The moment when I realised how much I’m going to like Jo was during the first part of the novel; she wrote a play for her sisters to act out on Christmas Day – I used to boss my sisters around when I was little as we put on performances for our parents, so it was undoubtedly a relatable scene!

So after that, my admiration for Jo continued to grow as the novel went on. Here are a few reasons why she is the best little woman, and certainly an unforgettable character.

She’s determined

One thing that I love about Jo is her determination. She’s determined to help her mother see her husband when he falls ill at war, so she shaves her hair off to sell it (even if it was not needed.) She is determined to see her novels published so she can send money home for ailing Beth. But that’s not the only reason why she writes. When reading the book, you can see her dedication to her stories, keeping herself away in her little corner of the attic, wearing her specific writers’ clothing (more on this later).

When she sets her mind to something, no can stop her from doing it.

She’s ‘masculine’

Throughout the novel, Jo often wished that she ‘was a boy’ and would swear, whistle, ruffle her skirts. She’s blunt and opinionated and can be clumsy, as shown by her setting her dress on fire while warming herself up. She struggles to remain within the domestic sphere, feeling angry when she can’t fight in the Civil War alongside her father.

One of my favourite scenes from the novel is when she and Amy call upon their neighbours, and Jo purposely shocks Amy with her erratic behaviour. Jo hates making calls (customary for women at the time) and so decides to have a bit of fun. When Amy tells her to be ‘calm, cool, and quiet,’ she says no more than a few words at a time. When Amy said she should speak more with the ladies, Jo is over the top and silly. Amy stops caring what Jo does, so she goes and plays with the boys, making a mess of her best dress. I found the whole scene hilarious as it’s Jo’s way of rebelling against the high-class, feminine tradition of making calls. She refuses to fit in and act a certain way – and if that means causing a scene, then she shall create a scene.

She’s relatable

Majority of the time, when you ask someone who your favourite character from Little Women is, the answer will be Jo. So I think that that’s because she is so ahead of her time, and so we can relate to her more.

As mentioned earlier, she doesn’t attempt to fit in with society’s rules for women; she instead embodies a strong, different type of femininity that I think applies to today’s gender ‘roles.’ She’s independent, chases her dreams and continuously works to better her talents. She accepts who she is, instead of whom the world wants her to be, and allows herself to grow and move forward, realising that she does love Bhaer.

She was considered to be imperfect because she was not a stereotypical woman, and that’s why she is a loved character. Her unladylike ways are flaws to her, and there are times throughout the novel when she is unhappy that she is not the proper lady. However, she accepts these ‘flaws’ and continues to do what she believes she needs to do. You just can’t help but be inspired by her.

She’s a writer

As a writer, I couldn’t write this post without including Jo’s literary talents. My favourite parts of Little Women are the scenes where Jo puts on her ‘scribbling suit’ and gets to work, isolating herself for hours.

What I love is the significance of writing for Jo – it plays such a massive part of her life. Her skills develop through the book as she regularly devotes her time to her craft, in her own private writing space, something that I wish I could have!

Writing is also a necessary act for Jo in a way. She’s a fiery character with lots of energy, and writing helps her release that energy and produce something that becomes extremely successful. It was also her way of letting go of her struggles, such as losing Meg to Jon, or the pressures of society to become the women she despises or Beth’s death. Her emotions are expressed through her words – I remember almost crying at the poem she wrote about her sisters and herself towards the end of the novel.

It is partly through her writing that Jo learns to be herself. When Jo tried to live as Beth did, Jo was not herself. Her mother persuaded her to write something, anything, it led to Jo’s writing success, and her creative energy that everyone adored returned.

Review: Northern Lights

SPOILERS AHEAD

I’ve heard so many good things about the His Dark Materials trilogy, and so many people have told me to read the books. The film The Golden Compass was my favourite when it came out, but I still didn’t read the books. For Christmas, I received The Folio Society’s editions, and Northern Lights was the last book I picked up in 2018 and the first I finished in 2019. Safe to say, it certainly lived up to my expectations.

I love Lyra. She’s feisty and intelligent and curious, everything that I want to be, essentially! I also enjoyed the moments when her childish nature shone through the text: ‘But it didn’t seem to Lyra that she would ever grow up.’ It highlights the fact that even though she is on this long journey and is part of a huge task that could change everything about her world, she is still a child at the end of the day. But that fact that she is not letting the weight of her journey crush her is what makes her one of my favourite fictional characters.

It’s not just Lyra’s characterisation that’s brilliant, though. Pullman gives each character their own dialect – the gypsy’s slang, or the educated upper class – which makes them feel more real, and they all have a range of personalities that will have you sympathising with them at least once in the novel, even if you despise them.

Saying that there is one thing that I didn’t like, and it is the tiniest of criticisms. When Lyra reunites with Ioreck just before his fight with Iofur, she calls him ‘dear’ multiple times. This could just be me, but when I was a child, the word ‘dear’ made me shudder and think of an old man addressing his wife. I can’t see Lyra using it for Ioreck, or anyone even if she grew up in a world of scholars. Again, this could just be me though, as I’m not one for pet names, especially ‘dear.’

Pullman’s style of writing draws you into the narrative. The world he has created is beautiful, even though many of the locations, such as Oxford, Lapland, and Svalbard are not fictional. However, he has transformed them into places that seem more magical and alive, in a way it saddens me that our version of these places is not filled with armored bears and witches and sacred devices like the alethiometer.

Speaking of the alethiometer, I think the idea of that alone is incredible. I would never have imagined an object that can answer your questions through symbolism. Pullman has a vivid mind, and it’s this fact alone that makes me want to read more of his works.

One scene that stood out for and still replays in my head, even while reading The Subtle Knife, is the fight between Iorek and Iofur in part three. The language Pullman uses here is beautiful:

‘Like two great masses of rock balanced on adjoining peaks and shaken loose by an earthquake.’

‘And that was when Ioreck moved. Like a wave that has been building its strength over a thousand miles of ocean, and which makes a little stir in the deep water, but which when it reaches the shallows rears itself high into the sky, terrifying the shore-dwellers, before crashing down on the land with irresistible power.’

As a writer, I struggle with fight scenes. My novel is set in the 1600s, and the weaponry and techniques were very different during this period. I can never create the right imagery, but the way Pullman has in these lines is overwhelmingly clever. The nature imagery and similes convey the power and brutality of the fights while maintaining the grace and dignity of the two bears. This technique also works well with the third person narrative, for, if the story was told in the first person, he may not have been able to use this technique as well, as Lyra would probably not have seen it this way.

I do find that this book is a bit like Harry Potter, in the sense that it’s adaptable for a wide audience. It’s a children’s book, and yet I’m reading it at 22 years old, and loving every minute of it. However, I do sometimes struggle to see how someone Lyra’s age could read this and not get confused at times, such as the conversations surrounding Dust.

It has taken me far too long to read this book; I wish I started it sooner. Pullman has created a beautiful world filled with wonder and magic, and it has left me in awe. I’ve started reading the next in the series, The Subtle Knife, and I’m already enjoying it just as much.

Also, while I was writing this, I took a quiz to see who my daemon would be. I got a golden monkey, because I’m ‘ambitious, worldly and smart’. I’d prefer to have an owl though…

Let me know which animal your daemon would be!

Are fairy tales sexist?

This is a debate that keeps popping in and out of social media, the news, classrooms, pretty much anywhere you turn. I was reminded of it when reading Little Women, in which the girls tell stories that reminded me of fairy tales.

In an era of #metoo, people have been finding issues with fairy tales, claiming that they are offensive towards both men and women as they encourage gender stereotypes. It was recently brought to light once again by Keira Knightley, who refuses to let her daughter watch Disney’s Cinderella or The Little Mermaid. While her comments focused solely on Disney, many people have been considering fairy tales in general as well, with one mother wanting to ban the story of Sleeping Beauty in schools.

In all fairness, you can see why people view fairy tales as problematic. In most, women are damsel in distress’ who wait for their princes to save them, and in both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, they are both kissed while unconscious (in the original Sleeping Beauty, the prince rapes her, and she wakes up to give birth to twins!). Ariel gives up her voice for a man in The Little Mermaid, and in Cinderella, only by marrying the Prince can Cinderella escape. I mean, none of this screams female empowerment to me.

Also, they don’t exactly set good examples for men either. Fairy tales glorify the ‘perfect’ man who is strong, handsome and able to defeat any villain that he encounters. He is fearless and doesn’t appear to have tear ducts. And with suicide being the most common cause of death for men in the UK, being reminded of these emotionless expectations aren’t exactly ideal.

I personally love fairy tales, from the originals, retellings and of course Disney films. They are ancient stories that have lived through centuries. They’re great for quick reads, and I like to think of them as a reminder of the progress we have made when it comes to gender equality.

Fairy tales are pieces of history. Cinderella was first published in 1697, with many other stories published in the 1800s. They are old stories, and folktales passed through the ages. If we were to ban these, we would be erasing evidence of the ideas people used to have. They belong to a time where people were not encouraged to question what they read like we are now. People were less skeptical; they followed what was written. We can see glimpses of this in classic literature. To ban fairy tales would be like banning Little Women or Taming of the Shew, or any Austen novel. They are going to be seen in a different light; much loved at the time of their release, now the flaws in society during the time are exposed. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate them as what they are: iconic pieces of literature.

Furthermore, if we’re looking at ‘modern’ fairy tales, we can clearly see that they too reflect the social values at the time – of our time. Dark retellings are extremely popular, and often the author reverses the roles in the story, so the ‘princess’ saves herself. The remake of Beauty and the Beast portrays LeFou as a gay character (not focusing on it too much of course, so that the attention remained on the film itself) which deters from the heroic male stereotype and Frozen, which is based on The Snow Queen, focuses on the love of two sisters. Angela Carter’s collection of short stories, The Bloody Chamber, even though it was published in the 80s, takes the tropes in fairy tales and turns them around, such as the protagonist’s mother rescuing her from her husband’s (Bluebeard) castle instead of her brothers. And that was written decades ago! Writers for both fiction and film are listening to what our society is saying, and it shows. Children having access to both the originals and more modern takes of these tales will show them just how far we’ve come regarding gender ideals, and they will be encouraged to continue this progress.

Also, let’s give people, no matter what age, a bit of credit. The fact that people believe that children will grow up still thinking that they should spend their lives waiting for their Prince Charming to find them. I can remember Holly Willoughby saying that banning fairy tales is insulting to women as it suggests that we can differentiate between fact and fiction, and I agree. It creates the impression that we’re as stupid as they make out in the stories. We’re going to go out and work, see our friends, build our own lives, and Prince Charming can arrive whenever he wants to. But we’re not necessarily going to drop everything for him and succumb to a life of domesticity.

Times change, ideas change, and so does society. But stories stand the test of time. If we were to ban a piece of literature just because it doesn’t agree with our views, then we would eventually ban every book out there. And who would want to live in a world with no books? I certainly wouldn’t. History has never been completely moral, but I’d rather accept that any misogynistic line that’s crept its way on to a page is nothing more than a sign of its time, instead of erasing a beautiful story from the world.

The books I got for Christmas

I’m writing this on Boxing day, at my dad’s house with a cup of tea and the smell of my second Christmas dinner roasting away in the oven. I received so many amazing gifts this year; I’ve been incredibly lucky. I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas that’s been warm, cosy and full of fun.

Before Christmas, I posted a list of the books that were on my Christmas list, which did have a few more additions by the time Christmas came around. Some I received and some I didn’t, and I had a few unexpected ones as well. Keep reading to see which ones I had.

A Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

 Image by  Waterstones
Image by Waterstones

This is one of the books that was not my list, but I was still delighted with it. I’ve never read it, but I’ve heard plenty about it. When I was at uni, it was read as part of a module some of my friends were on, and they all spoke highly of it. So now I can read it myself and see if I feel the same.

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

As I said on my Christmas list post, I thought I had the whole of Little Women, but once I got to the end of my edition, it turns out I only had part one! And so I’ve been wanting to read the next half ever since. I received the Clothbound Classic edition, the one I was hoping for. The cover is so pretty! I know what happens in the next half (which was called ‘Little Wives’ when it first came out) and I can already tell that it’s going to be emotional.

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

 Image by  Pinterest
Image by Pinterest

Another Clothbound Classic. I’ve read this story before, and Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors. So naturally, I have to own the Clothbound Classic edition. The cover is stunning, and I can’t wait to give it reread.

Fantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Grindelwald – J.K Rowling

I’m not usually one for reading scripts and screenplays, but I received Fantastic Beasts, and the cover is so beautiful, I think I’m persuaded. The film was incredible, and it’ll be interesting to read the screenplay.

Spelled – Betsy Schow

 Image by  Amazon
Image by Amazon

So I got this the week before Christmas as part of my Bookstagram Secret Santa. My Secret Santa bought me this book because I love fairy tales, and this book combines all fairy tale characters in one world, like Once Upon A Time. The main character is Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, which makes a nice change to many fairy tale rewritings that I’ve read, as I’ve never read one that features her before.

The War of the Worlds – H.G Wells

This is another one that wasn’t on my list. I’m not a big reader of science fiction, but this book was written during the Victorian era, and I think it’ll be interesting to see what sort of ideas there were concerning aliens. I wasn’t aware of how much knowledge there was about the solar system around this era, as the theory of evolution was still considered to be controversial at the time. The Victorian Era is one of my favourite time periods to learn about, so I’m looking forward to furthering my knowledge.

Poor Unfortunate soul – Serena Valentino

 Image by  Amazon
Image by Amazon

This will be the second of the darker Disney books that I’d have read, the first being based on Beauty and the Beast. I love fairy tale retellings, and so seeing ones based on Disney movies is right up my street. The Little Mermaid is also one of my favourite princesses (and I really like the original story by Hans Christian Anderson), so this book is just perfect for me.

A Literary Christmas – The British Library

There are no words to describe how excited I am to read this book. Christmas has been mentioned in so many books and poems over the years, from Dickens to Alcott, Eliot, and Tusser. This little anthology has included all of these authors and more, allowing you to read about the ghosts of Christmas past and present, what Christmas would be like on a diet, or Christmas day as a Tudor. Filled with short stories, poems, and essays, this book explores Christmas in the literary world, and I can’t wait to dive in.

His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

 Image by  Folio Society
Image by Folio Society

If you read my Christmas list post, you’d know that I originally wanted Folio Society’s edition of Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. However, after finding out just how expensive they were, decided to settle for a cheaper version instead. So you can imagine my surprise when I unwrapped Folio’s books! I was speechless. I now own the most beautiful editions ever, and I’m so so so happy. I still can’t get over how exquisite they are, and not just the cover, but the quality of paper and Folio’s signature stitched binding. The collection weighs a ton, but I love them. The only downside? They make some of my other books look plain in comparison!

 

 

7 books that are on my Christmas list

I’ve got quite a few books on my Christmas list this year, and it’s getting longer and longer. By the time I’ve published this post, it’s probably grown even more. So here are my top seven at the moment; if I don’t get them for Christmas (which, considering the length of the list, is quite likely!), then I shall certainly be making a trip to Waterstones very soon.

The Penguin Classics book

 Image from  Penguin Random House
Image from Penguin Random House

This book explores literary history, from Ancient Greece, Japanese poetry, War stories and more. I love reading classic literature, and this looks like it’s filled with inspiration for my next reading slump.

The Librarian – Salley Vickers

Any book that is set in a library appeals to me. I want to read this one in particular because it takes place in the 1950s, and I can’t ever remember reading a book set in that decade. I want to see the differences in attitudes towards reading, and I’m also intrigued by the exploration of what children’s literature has on us. It sounds like a wonderfully bookish adventure, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

I’d Rather Be Reading – Ann Bogel

A book can have so many effects on you, and it can stay with you for weeks, even years. Bogel captures these moments, as well as many others that a reader experiences. She explores the feeling of your first book, finding a book that you love and finding one that you hate. It encourages you to reflect on the effect that books have on your life, and I think it’s the perfect book for an avid reader.

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker

 Image from  Waterstones
Image from Waterstones

After reading Circe, I’ve been keeping my eye out for mythological-based novels, as it’s a new genre that I’ve never really read before. I find Greek myths and legends so interesting, and reading them imagined is just as fascinating. I especially love the idea of the legends being retold through a woman’s perspective, as these stories feature many well-known, iconic women that we don’t know much about. The Silence of the Girls, described as a ‘feminist Iliad,’ where Barker places the female goddesses at the heart of the story, which I’m incredibly intrigued by and can’t wait to read.

The Dark Artifices: The Queen of Air and Darkness – Cassandra Clare

The Mortal Instruments is one of my favourite book collections ever, as are the many other Shadowhunter novels that Clare has released. The Queen of Air and Darkness is the latest addition to The Dark Artifices, and I’ve been waiting for this book for so long. Julian and Emma have become one of my favourite fictional couples, and I have become so engrossed in many of the other characters that I’m somewhat scared to see what happens at the end of this novel, especially after Livia’s death in the last book.

Little Women (Clothbound Classic edition) – Louisa May Alcott

I bought this book recently, and I loved it. However, it turns out it ends at the end of part one and does not include Little Wives, the rest of the story. Penguin’s Clothbound Classic edition has both parts one and two, so I need to get it soon to finish what I started. As well as this, it’s been a while since I added to my growing collection of Clothbound Classics, so this book will solve this problem.

The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

 Image from  The Folio Society
Image from The Folio Society

I’ve seen The Golden Compass but never read the books. I’ve always wanted to, just never got round to it. I’m currently meeting up with someone who’s writing a novel, and she told me that Pullman’s style of writing influenced her. This comment reminded me of The Amber Spyglass, and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. So now I am determined to get a copy and read it. (The Folio Society have a beautiful set of all three books, but they’re over £100! 😦 Currently looking out for different editions, although they all seem to pale in comparison!)