As Louisa May Alcott’s acclaimed book – Little Women completes 150 years in literature, more new TV series and movie adaptations are coming to screens to celebrate the legacy of Little Women. The characters of Little Women are so lively and real to life that we feel that we know them closely as our neighbors next door.
A lot is written about Jo March, the protagonist of the novel who is the alter ego of author Louisa herself. Apart from Jo, it is Beth March who has captivated the minds of readers through her minimal but significant appearance in the book.
Louisa wrote the character of Beth March as a tribute to her sister Elizabeth who too died of sickness in her childhood. Unlike today’s Instagram generation girls, Beth March leads an uneventful life. She is homely, shy, and too timid to attend school. Thus Beth is content with her old piano and her dolls. Jo March takes her younger sister Beth under her wings and acts as a guardian when her mother must leave home to take care of her husband Mr. March who is sick on war front. Like her mother, even Beth March is generous and helpful in nature. While nursing an infant, Beth gets affected from Scarlet fever. It is this episode that changes the situation of the story. Jo March blames herself for ignoring her younger angelic sister Beth. Though Beth recovers from fever temporarily, it leaves her completely exhausted. There comes an episode where Jo March feels that Beth has soft corner for Laurie and abandons her plans of loving Laurie. In the chapter ‘Valley of the shadow’, Beth regrets that she didn’t do anything for her family. She loved her home, her parents, siblings and her piano. The death of Beth is the one of the painful moment in the book that left me to tears. Unlike her sisters – Meg and Amy, Beth has no ambitions to pursue. In her final moments, she tells Jo to take care of her parents after her departure.
‘You must take my place Jo and be everything to father and mother when I am gone’ – lines from the chapter ‘Valley of the shadow’ in Little Women
What captivated me most in this novel is the broad mindedness of the characters in the novel especially of Mr. Laurence, the grandfather of Laurie. When he realizes that Beth is too shy to play piano in his mansion, he gifts her little piano which once belonged to his late granddaughter. Sadly, even Beth passes away. Compared to today’s generation girls who are too showy, fashionista and full of bragging, Beth March is misfit in this progressive world which is too stone hearted, ambitious and fast in its mindset. Kind virtues like generosity, thanksgiving, friendship and sibling love are been explored in Little Women.
‘Beth never puts a foot out of line or asks for anything for herself, and the result is that she is literally too good to live’
It is Beth who believes in Jo’s writings and boosts her to keep writing despite of criticisms. After Beth’s death, Jo is completely devastated as everyone leaves her. She is left alone with her pen and paper. Even her sister Amy and friend Laurie abandon her in later chapters. Emptiness surrounds around Jo. Finally Jo’s friend Fredrich Bhaer fills Beth’s space by encouraging her to write that will bring out the best writer in her.
The role of Beth March was played by actress Claire Danes in 1994 movie adaptation of Little Women. It was an award winning role for Claire to play Beth with such tenderness that viewers’ hearts reach out for this simple girl. There is so much emotional depth in Alcott’s writings that one keeps craving to read Little Women multiple times.
To know more about Beth March, I highly recommend my reader friends to read Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel – Little Women.