Among the names of the top women writers like Jane Austen, Bronte Sisters, and more recently Margaret Atwood, there is also the name of the woman who was breaking through the societal expectations during the American Civil War, Louisa May Alcott. We know her for her works like Little Women, Eight Cousins and adult novels like A Modern Mephistopheles. She has published a variety of books and mot under a pen name. Much later in life, she revealed to her readers her true identity and invariably, her gender. Celebrating her birthday today, let’s see the fine lines of her adaptations.
For a writer who was forced to conceal their sexual orientation for a long time, Alcott wrote primarily about women. She gave them both loud and timid personalities that appealed to the large range of audiences that consumed her literature. She did not hesitate to make her female characters strong and opinionated. This is one reason why Little Women was so well taken by the world. It has a simplistic quality of realism that enraptures readers to keep coming back to the soothing nature of childhood.
The very authorship of the novel is giving birth not only to the characters and plot for the first time but to the uniqueness and completely personal aspect of the story. Louisa May Alcott carved herself into society, into the story. She did not resurrect a new world but her own life into the pages of the two-volume novel.
There are over five movies that are based on the novel. Little Women has also been adapted into multiple television series, musicals and theatre play. Many renowned names through the years have contributed to this range of adaptations and bagged awards to bring life to this beloved children’s classic. It is one such classic that did not need to stand the test of time to reach the fame that it boasts of today. Since its original publication, plays and adaptations have been spiraling out and it has been translated into 50 languages in various regions of the world.
Most recently, Greta Gerwig directed an adaptation. Gerwig, unlike all her predecessors, wanted to flaunt feminism in her movie and give the women-centric classic “everything that the boys get.” She said in an interview that when a remake of a story of war and battlefields then everyone assumes a big scale production but when someone steps in to make a remake of girls entering womanhood and/or societal relationships, then something small and quaint comes into mind. This is the reason she went above and beyond to explore the story of something that means a lot to the lives of women and “men as well”.
Using her creative liberties to step away from a traditional adaptation to modernize the story while continuing to use the original time period. She changed the narrative of the story by centering the movie on the novel being written by Alcott through Jo. Then she even did something that no one thought could happen. Redemption of Alcott’s Amy. By the end of Alcott’s Little Women, the readers are not okay with Amy and Laurie as a couple, but by Gerwig’s end, Amy is not Jo’s villain.
I can say that the two writers equally shared the authorship for the 2019 adaptation as their thoughts are in the innovation and modernization of the timeless classic but also in the foundation of the relationship dynamic established by Alcott. Additionally, Gerwig even paid tribute to the writer by fusing Alcott and Jo and restoring the autobiographical element of the novel. It grew and developed as per the society, which is the entire purpose of literature; to understand the world today better.