Little Women

Angela Chang. AP Lit. Pearce. Period 5


"Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott is a widely known novel about the lives of four sisters- Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy during the 1800s. The book is mainly about family duty and the personal growth of each girls. It is loosely based on the author's childhood experiences. The book was a success and was adapted into many film versions. The latest one was made in 1994 directed by Gillian Armstrong.


Many parts in the film are similar to the book since the film is adapted based on the book. In the film, the party that Jo and Meg are invited to is exactly like the book. When they are preparing for the party, Jo accidently burns Meg's hair. At the party, while Meg is asked to dance by many, Jo is on the side avoiding being asked. Her escape from a red-headed man trying to ask her for a dance causes her to run into Laurie, her neighbor. This marks the beginning of their lifelong friendship. The part when Meg twists her ankle at the party and Laurie bringing her home with his carriage is also shown.

Meanwhile, both film and the book also show the part when Amy is jealous of Jo and Meg's invitation to theater with Laurie and John. Amy's quarrel with Jo made Amy really angry for revenge that she burns Jo's precious manuscript. When Jo finds out, she is furious and swears she will never forgive Amy. Later, when Jo and Laurie go ice skating, Amy wants to follow but falls through the ice. This accident helps fix Amy and Jo's relationship.

In both of the book and the movie Amy is struck by her teacher for the eating limes in class. The March family were upset by the teacher's action that Mrs. March allows Amy to quit school and study at home like Beth. Also, the March girls have their secret society of plays and the Pickwick Portfolio. Like the book, they also accept Laurie as a member of their secret society and he gives the girls a ‘post office’ for them to share “their most appalling secrets.”


There are numerous differences between the book and the film. The changes in the movie is necessary to speed up the time because it cannot cram so much information in 2 hours. The alterations made by the director also affect the meanings of the work.


In the book, Laurie first appears as a mystery who often spends his time alone in his house before he becomes friends with the March sisters. But in the film, after he meets Jo at the party, they quickly become friends.

The characteristics of Meg, Beth, and Jo are portrayed more deeply in the book than the film. The movie does not show as much of the lessons the girls learned in the novel that turned them from young, immature girls into little women. In the book, one can see Meg's transformation from being the one who cares about fine, wealthy things to a wise woman who does not care about poverty. One big scene in the book was when she bravely defends her love for Mr. Brook, despite of his poverty, against Aunt March. This shows that love can conquer anything. One would prefer a poor husband who treats one well instead of a rich husband who is careless and unsentimental. Sadly, the part where Meg fights with Aunt March is not included in the movie which her change in character is not specified. The character Beth is not as a focus in the film either. It is a big turnaround in the book when Beth overcomes her shyness and becomes friends with Mr. Laurence. The moment she walks over to Mr. Laurence's house to thank him for the piano was one of the significant moment of Beth's character. Sadly, the character Beth and Mr. Lawrence were underdeveloped in the film and this dynamic changing scene in Beth was overlooked. Lastly, Jo's tomboyish character is toned-down in the film comparing to the book. In the book, Jo often complains about girly things and not being a man. Also Jo is known to have stubborn temper so when Amy burns Jo's manuscript, Jo is furious that she mentally wishes bad things to happen on Amy. When Amy later falls in the pond, and almost drowns, Jo feels guilty and blames herself for having those evil thoughts. The movie never portrays Jo's thoughts and the didactic teachings her mother had with her about learning to control her anger.


In order to shorten the story to make it flow better, the director did some alterations by changing some events around. The alterations make the story more interesting to watch and evolve stronger romance.

Obvious modern touches are incorporated in many scenes in the film that are not in the book, such as kissing scenes between Meg and Mr. Brooks in the doorway and Laurie and Amy in the middle of a park. Back in the 1800s, kissing in public was seen as an embarrassment and a disgrace. The girls in the book were raised in a Christian family to be "good girls". Based from the book, the girls would never do such public behaviors that would not have been taken lightly at the time, especially their father was a chaplain, which is also not noted in the movie. On the other hand, in the movie, Friedrich invited Jo to the opera, which never happens in the book. The incorporation of this scene greatly illustrate the developing love relationship between Jo and Friedrich. Meanwhile, the relationship between Meg and John does not start until much later in the book. Their relationship after marriage when their troubles as husband and wife are shown is not included in the film, because the film is mostly focused on Jo. In the novel, Meg and John’s children grow to be toddlers, talking and running around. In the movie, we only see them as newborns.

Some events are switched around too. In the novel, Laurie propose to Jo after Jo comes back from New York while in the film it occurs before she travels to New York to pursue her dream as an author. Furthermore, in the movie, Jo rushes home after receiving a telegram about Beth being ill. In the book, Jo is already home when Beth is ill. She takes her on a vacation where Beth admits that she hasn’t been feeling well and knows that she will not be living much longer. The book progress gradually about Beth becoming sicker, while in the movie, Beth is suddenly gravely sick when Jo arrives home. Beth’s death hits Jo a lot harder in the book.


There are still many similarities and differences between the novel and the film. The ones above are some of the important scenes I observed. The book specifies more about family duty and character development while the film is mainly about developing a romantic plot. Overall, both the book and the movie were great in depicting a well beloved story of the a transcendental family in the 1800s.