Three Key Scenes Left Out Of Little Women

I recently saw the most recent film adaptation of Little Women, and I loved it. Greta Gerwig created a pleasant movie that perfectly captured the mental battles that come up with growing up. The casting was fantastic – Saoirse Ronan really brought Jo to life. I found myself crying my eyes out when Amy burnt Jo’s novel, and the same thing happened as the beautiful final scene panned out on the screen, the image of the sisters holding on to each other as they walked through their families to their Marmee.

Saying that, there were a few moments that strayed from Alcott’s extraordinary novel, and some that were omitted altogether. Of these missing scenes, there are three which I consider as extremely significant towards the plot, and so I was surprised when I realised that they won’t be included at all in the movie.

Keep reading to find out what those scenes were, and why I think they should have been left in the latest adaptation of Little Women. 

Meg’s Relationship With John

OK, so this point covers multiple scenes, but that’s because many left out of Gerwig’s film. It made me feel like Meg was pushed right to the back throughout the story. My boyfriend (who hasn’t read the book) also proved my point when we came out of the cinema; he asked: “So, is the novel basically about just Jo and Amy then?”

I feel that Meg and John’s marriage was really pushed to the side in this adaptation, which was a shame as Meg learns so much from it. Aside from their money problems, Meg’s battle to conquer motherhood while becoming the perfect wife for her husband is put under no light whatsoever.

One example of this is when their son Demi refuses to go to bed, causing Meg to almost burst into tears as he refuses to go to sleep and leave her alone with John for the evening. John steps in, refusing her to ‘indulge’ him while Meg reproaches herself for leaving her son to wail upstairs alone:

“He’s my child, and I can’t have his spirit broken by harshness.”

“He’s my child, and I won’t have his temper spoiled by indulgence. Go down, my dear, and leave the boy to me.”

Meg must convince herself that their children are not her sole responsibility and that she must not forget her husband. They learn to compromise on how their children are raised, as well as many other matters concerning their family. Megs also discovers how much work can go into small things such as looking after their household and being a good wife, and so she begins to appreciate the simpler things in life – like a happy family. 

Alcott uses scenes like this to show that marriage can have as many battles as the Civil War, a refreshing perspective compared to the classic novels that I’ve read. And from these battles, Meg grows into the mature lady we see at the end of the story. 

Jo And Amy’s Calls

Jo and Amy’s relationship is notorious throughout literary history. The two sisters bicker constantly throughout Little Women, and for me, one of the most memorable arguments is when Amy convinces Jo to make calls with her.

Jo decides to mess with Amy here. Just before the first call they make, Amy tells Jo to act quiet and modest, and so Jo responds by staying utterly silent throughout their entire first visit. When she is asked a question, she simply says ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Amy scolds her for this, demanding that she acts in a friendlier manner.

So, for the second call, Jo turns on the charm and tells everyone in that social circle stories that reveal their families’ poverty, embarrassing Amy further. She tells Jo to stop messing about, and so Jo finally acts like herself, much to her sister’s dismay once again. She plays with the boys and dirties her skirts.

Finally, it’s on to Aunt March’s house, where Aunt Carrol is also visiting. Jo continues to act like her coarse self, which leads to some devastating results for her later on. She tells Aunt Carrol that she does not speak French as it is ‘a slippery, silly sort of language,’ while Amy states that she is fluent and is grateful to have learned it. This results in Carrol asking Amy to accompany her on a tour of Europe instead of Jo, who is devastated.

Amy finding her way to Paris is hugely significant for Little Women’s plot as it’s where her romance with Laurie begins to blossom, while allowing Amy to showcase to the readers how much she has grown.

The calls she and Jo made present the difference between the two sisters, placing Amy in a stronger light as she is more respectful during calls, which she is awarded for, contrasted by Jo’s curtness.

As Amy is often the most disliked out of all the March sisters, this moment redeems her, which is why I think it’s a shame that Gerwig didn’t include it in her adaptation.

Jo’s Relationship With Professor Bhaer

OK, so this is a repeat of the Meg-and-John point, but there’s no way I can write this blog without mentioning the portrayal of Bhaer in the latest movie adaptation.

One of the most famous debates in literary history is that Jo should have married Laurie instead of Professor Bhear, but I can’t entirely agree. I personally found Laurie too immature for Jo, as demonstrated by his clinginess towards Jo and the years he spent moping because she rejected his proposal.

Meanwhile, while Bhear certainly did not give the best first impression, he allowed Jo to grow into her writing, teaching her that she should write for herself, write the ‘truth,’ not the soppy stories that the publishers told her to write:

“There is a demand for whisky, but I think you and I do not care to sell it. If the respectable people knew what harm they did, they would not feel the living was honest. They haf no right to put poison in the sugarplum, and let the small ones eat it. No, they should think a little, and sweep mud in the street before they do this thing.”

Through this comparison, Bhaer reminds Jo that she is doing what she has always chastised Amy for – pursuing money despite her own beliefs and morals. He also does it in a way that involves a prohibited item, whiskey, which the March family does not touch for abstinent reasons. Bhaer’s bluntness earns him Jo’s most profound respect as he is not afraid to hurt her feelings if it means she learns something from it, helping her achieve in life. This type of affection is such a contrast to Laurie that it’s almost refreshing, and I was all for it. 

This blog makes it sound like I wasn’t too fond of Gerwig’s Little Women, but honestly, I loved it. I sobbed silently in the cinema at many moments, was captivated by every character and how they combatted the restrictions placed by society. I’m just slightly perplexed over why the three scenes above were left out. 

Then again, I think that every time a book is made into a film – it’s just never perfect, never as good as the author’s story itself. 

Header image from Empire

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.

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.

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!)