Why Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March is an inspiring literary character?

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Excerpt from Louisa May Alcott’s book ‘Little Women’

Maya hawke as Jo March in BBC One TV adaptation of Little Women

If I had to choose between Jo March and Elizabeth Bennett as my inspiration for writing, I would definitely vote for Louisa May Alcott’s character Josephine or Jo March. Initially I had presumed Little Women and Pride and Prejudice to be similar in story lines. After reading both the novels, I realized that both books were diverse by leaps and bounds. If Author Jane Austen’s character Elizabeth Bennett is in search of a suitable soulmate, Alcott’s Jo March is in pursuit of dreams to become a successful writer. Louisa May Alcott’s popular timeless classic – Little Women is one novel that has never been out of print and been continuously adapted for motion pictures and TV series. Set against the backdrop of civil war, Little Women is story of Jo March and her three sisters who discover the joy of growing up and the difficulties they endure smilingly even in hours of adversity.

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”

Winona Ryder as Jo March in 1994 movie Little Women

Jo March is not just the alter ego of author Louisa May Alcott; she is feminine representation of every ambitious girl who desires to be something in life. She is bubbly, generous, open-minded and helpful. If she has her qualities, she too has her flaws. Tomboyish, short-tempered, sharp tongue and outspoken nature makes Jo March less friendly among her social circle. Due to her outspoken nature, she even loses her chance to go abroad. In her father’s absence, Jo and her elder sister Meg become bread earner of the house, providing financial support to her mother and becoming guardians of their younger sisters – Beth and Amy. Jo and her family befriend the lonely rich lad Laurie. Though Laurie takes a liking for Jo, she considers him just a friend. Though Jo is keen to reciprocate to Laurie’s feeling, a misunderstanding that Beth too loves Laurie forces Jo to sacrifice her affection. In the later chapters, Jo realizes that Beth only considered Laurie as her brother. Jo’s sacrificing nature is seen in one of her chapters where she cuts off her long hair and sells it off to a salon to provide monetary help for her family.

“Some people seemed to get all sunshine, and some all shadow…”

Though Jo has her virtues, she can’t control her temper. The most interesting episode in the book is the situation when Jo refuses to take Amy to theatre and Amy ends up burning up Jo’s manuscripts as revenge. Jo and Amy are bit similar in their nature but can’t see eye to eye. As story progresses, Jo’s elder sister gets married and younger Beth gets fatally sick due to scarlet fever. Though Jo nurses her shy little sister Beth, Beth breathes her last leaving behind fond memories of her innocence in Jo’s heart. That chapter is the tender moment in Jo March’s life as she is left all alone. It was Beth who believed in Jo’s writings and inspired her to pursue her writing dreams. After Beth, it is her friend Fredrich Bhaer who motivates her to bring out the best in her writings. Despite the setbacks, rejections and immediate changes happening in her life, Jo March bravely faces every storm of adversities. In the climax, Jo March finally finds her soul mate in Fredrich and they start a school to educate little kids.

Jo March has been inspiring girls and boys for several generations. She even inspires me to write. Whenever I face writer’s block, I seek the help of Jo March by reading Little Women. Her aspiration to become writer infuses a new energy in me to keep on writing despite the criticisms. Today’s literary characters like Bela Swan from Twilight book or Harry Potter may be popular, but they don’t have that personal bonding which I feel while reading about Jo March in Little Women. She is the girl one can easily relate to. Even her flaws make her favorite among her followers, readers and fans who have been idolizing her for past 150 years since the book’s publication. The role of Jo March was portrayed by versatile actress Winona Ryder in the 1994 movie – Little Women. Winona Ryder’s heart felt performance earned her an Oscar nomination for her role as Jo March. Off lately, new TV and movie adaptations brought new Jo March to audience. The role of Jo March has been played by Maya Ray Thurman Hawke in BBC One’s Television adaptation of Little Women while Sarah Davenport is Jo March in modern retelling of Alcott’s classic in 2018’s Little Women movie. There is a new movie adaptation of Little Women scheduled to release in late 2019 featuring Saiorse Ronan as Jo March. To know more about the character Jo March, do read the books – Little Women, Good Wives (Part 2 of Little Women), Little Men and Jo’s Boys.

Sarah Davenport as Jo March in modern adaptation of Little Women

This is my small tribute to the book Little Women and its character Jo March who completes 150 years in world of literature. Sometimes I find fictional characters more real than the people around me. Even in the crowd of billions of book titles, Jo March is still remembered in Louisa May Alcott’s book – Little Women.

I will end this write up with the epic lines penned by Louisa May Alcott.

‘Some books are so familiar, reading them is like being home again’

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2 Replies to “Why Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March is an inspiring literary character?”

  1. This is a lovely ode to one of literature’s most winsome and appealing creations, the beautiful and spirited Jo March who nurses her writing aspirations as he comes to terms with coming of age with both its joys and sorrows. Winona Ryder’s performance is indeed exquisite and her doe-like eyes are full of troubled soul-searching and innocence. I loved how you captured each and every detail etched about Jo in the book.

    I just would like to add that while Alcott wrote about spirited young girls on their way to womanhood, Austen wrote about a woman’s right to choose in a stifling Victorian society. So that is why March would be appealing as an ambitious woman while Austen’s characters are rebels against orthodoxy. Both deserve equal mention.

    Nevertheless, a lovely article Prashant.

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