Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn’t be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they’re putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there’s one thing they can’t help wondering: Will Father return home safely?
I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.
Is there anything worse than disliking a book that you were loving? Because that was my experience with Little Women. I adored part one of the novel, but absolutely abhorred the second part. It honestly felt like a completely different novel and I’m so disappointed.
Little Women follows the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, as they grow up during the American Civil War, trying to support their family and find themselves in the meantime. Meg dreams of nothing more than becoming a wife, Beth is shy and adores playing the piano, Amy is a firecracker and becomes her family’s only hope, while tomboy Jo struggles the most with growing up and losing her sisters.
Like I mentioned, the first part of the novel is incredible. You get a really great sense of all of the sisters’ personalities — Jo was definitely my favourite, as she has no filter and truely is herself, but I have a real soft spot for Amy as well. It was a very big surprise to learn that many readers hate Amy when I thought she was fantastic — most likely, it’s because she burns Jo’s manuscript and she ends up with Laurie, Jo’s best friend. Meg was sweet and Beth was shy and very cute. I really loved these young girls and wanted nothing but the best for them.
And then part two happens.
How can I explain the hatred I have for the second part of the novel? All of the sisters’ personalities are destroyed and they become indistinguishable from one another, just another stereotype of a classic fictional woman. Meg becomes the mother stereotype and cares for little else, Beth is scarcely in the second half of the book and then dies from her long-time illness and her family cares for approximately five minutes; and Amy then becomes a stereotypical wife. I would say Jo probably has the smallest semblance of character growth as she finally learns to grow up, but also it was a bit disheartening to see her also fall into the trap classic fictional woman: she becomes a wife, after spending years stating she never would be. At least in the 2019 movie, this felt a little more believable.
Anyway, here are some other random complaints I have of the second half of the novel.
- Meg’s children are geniuses? They can apparently walk at speak fluent English before they’re one. Like SURE THAT’S TOTALLY BELIEVABLE.
- Beth is done so dirty. So, so dirty. I forgot she was even in the novel and so do the characters. When she passes, she is mentioned another two times but not in conversation. How horrible.
- How can a book called Little Women spend so much time focusing on the men in these women’s lives? The whole first half of the novel is about how women are strong and smart and more than what the world places upon us, but then the second half destroys all of that, especially the ending.
- At the very end of the book, when Jo receives her inheritance from her rich aunt, she makes a school for boys. And just — NO NO NO NO NO. MISS ME WITH THIS SHIT! I honestly feel that Jo should have created a school for young girls in order to end the novel on a really hopeful note that was captured in the first half — bring it back full circle to focus on actual little women — young girls seeking an education, like Jo always wanted. But no, we have to end with a focus on men — how disappointing. And I was so close to accepting that when Jo mentions that the school would be for poor boys who don’t have access to education ……. but then 0.3 seconds later she says she will also accept rich boys because everyone deserves an education. I’M SORRY, DID I MISS SOME PART OF HUMAN HISTORY WHERE RICH BOYS WERE DENIED AN EDUCATION? WHAT IS HAPPENING?
I need to end this mini review here, because if I keep discussing the hypocrisy of a book about women focusing so much on men, I’m going to rip my hair out.