I first read Little Women when I was around 9 or 10 years old. My parents bought it for me thinking it would be the perfect children’s book for me at that age. I not only loved the book at first glance, it’s world and characters have stuck with me even now as an adult. Author Louisa May Alcott created Little Women based on her life with her sister living at their family house in Concord, Massachusetts. If you think about it, Little Women is Louisa May Alcott’s own autobiography.
Through the eyes of my younger self, Little Women is a book about family love. As a kid, I loved reading the scenes of the March family gathering together to have dinner, celebrate Christmas, and sing before going to bed. Most of all I was fascinated by the big family house; I would picture the house in my mind: like Jo’s attic, Beth’s dolls, Hannah’s kitchen, Marmee’s sewing corner, and the living room where they play piano and sing. The love and care they have for one another touched me as a child and became a part of my deep memories. When I discovered there was a television series of Little Women, I was thrilled. I loved the 1994 Little Women film, and I was curious to see what new, modern liberties the producers would take on in television.
The 2017 TV series is a three-episode production and a part of PBS’ Masterpiece Theater anthology program. From the beginning, I was immediately hooked. The series opens with Mr. March, the father of the March family, serving in the war. Little Women was set in the Civil War period, it however was rarely mentioned, perhaps in order to keep a lighter tone for the book. But here, showing the audience scenes from America’s bloodiest war gives more depth with the TV series and a brooder understanding of the background of the story. One of the biggest impressions I have for the TV series after watching is it portrays a more realistic look at family interactions than the original book. The book itself has a lot of tragedies and sadness such as one of the sisters dying and Mr. March’s injury during the war. However, I think despite these, the book still depicts a more idealistic world where the power of family love can overcome any obstacle is the main theme. The TV show captures the genuine emotions between family members, friends and neighbors, and added more realistic scenarios or character reactions where the emotions expressed are not wholly optimistic and hopeful as you can also see hints of despiration and despair.
Little details expressed in the book were given more explicit meaning in the show. For example, when Laurie was sent to college by his wealthy grandfather, his private tutor John served in the war. The difference of their social status led to different life experiences between them. When portrayed in the show, we can see Laurie was putting a baseball glove into his suitcase while John was marching in the rain as a foot solider. Another example is when Jo wanted to change her story according to the publisher’s request in order to publish her book and earn a paycheck. March expressed that she should stay true to her story. Jo did not express her opinion on this advice in the book. However, in the show, Jo had the courage to tell her father what she actually felt: that what she earned from her stories paid to repair the rug and cover the meat bill for their family, therefore she thinks that her father’s virtuous attitude on money is not something she is convinced she has. This detail shows a realistic interpretation of Jo trying to balance her hardworking attitude with her sense of duty towards her family; although she wants to be truthful in her writings, she also feels that changing the stories for better pay would benefit the family even more.
As a Little Women’s book lover, I appreciate the modern television take that the producers wrote. With more realistic expressions and reactions towards problems that families, especially women who need to balance work and home life, have to endure, I think the Little Women show is an empowering show that should be viewed especially by younger girls who want role models and guidance. The four sisters have such distinct personalities, yet are binded together through their strong mother and the respect they have for each other. Take it from me, someone who was inspired by this book as a young girl, that this show will make girls think and sympathize with the challenges they face in modern times and how they can overcome it.
Girl Museum Inc.