More Little Women thoughts

Okay I really did not think about the Greater Historical Context while I was reading Little Women. (Something that actually got me to think more about the Greater Cultural/Historical Context (besides this lecture!) was the book Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy which is a graphic novel adaption of Little Women, and seeing some of the ‘standards’ of Little Women ‘updated’ (ie their dad is fighting in Afghanistan versus the Civil War) made me actually step back and consider what is actually happening in Little Women besides just taking it at face value, because a lot of the things that happen are just ‘norma’ for today). The note especially about how women were forbidden to own property or hold bank accounts but were suddenly expected to manage the family’s financial affairs? And how the little women of the story were being brought up in that environment? “…they waged intentional or unintentional war against traditional notions of female behavior”. 

And it’s in that environment that Jo grows up and is allowed to flourish as a tomboy, as The Blueprint for tomboys for a century. Jo bowing to more feminine ways in “act 2” of the book (or the “second novel” is a tragedy! Jo leaves behind her tomboy stage as she grows out of adolescence and becomes more of a “woman” and it’s supposed to signify that she is growing up, but why can’t she continue being herself! It feels like there’s no good explanation for this in the book besides “she grew up :-)”. Jo still keeps some of her more “masculine” ways, though, like rejecting Laurie because she doesn’t love him (and breaking my heart in the process!), and she goes into town herself to talk to Mister Bhaer (and he ends up proposing to her on equal footing, while they’re both standing, which is really interesting symbolism!). 

A classmate, who also watched the 2019 movie before reading Little Women, and was struck with the tragedy of Jo and Laurie not marrying, but found it more complicated after reading the book. “Jo is lonely, and, in addition to her ambitions, also wants a family of her own and there is no reason she can’t sill wish for both things, it’s just that they will both have to develop in their own time.” I feel like in that historical context, Jo felt like she had to marry or be alone forever, even though she has three sisters who married and are also her family and romantic love isn’t the only kind of love there is. It feels like Jo forced herself to conform to society’s expectations so that she didn’t have to be lonely all her life. My classmate is right, that this is a more balanced ending to Jo’s character — ugh, but I, personally, would like Jo to kiss Laurie and then start a writing/music school for girls AND boys instead of the ending we get. I’m logging onto AO3 about it now.

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