Last week I gave you assignment: read “Little Women”.  So now that we’re up to speed…

Ok- I really didn’t expect the six of you who haven’t read the book to go out and get a copy…but for all of us who have read it, I noticed a common theme.  Whether it was my book club or the blogverse, every woman who reads LW identifies with one of the four main characters, Meg, Jo, Beth or Amy. I think this is what makes the book universally appealing, to see your traits show up as one of the March sisters. So today, I want to know how you define the characters, and which character you think you are. (I know some were pondering this question last week)

I looked up SparkNotes to get some ideas for character description.

Meg: Oldest daughter.  Responsible. Kind. Mothers her younger sisters. Small weakness for luxury and leisure. Gentle.  Loving. Morally vigorous

Jo: Wants to be a writer. Temper. Quick tongue. Tomboy. Doesn’t like limits placed on girls and women. Hates romance. Strong willed. Impetuous.

Beth: Very quiet.  Very virtuous. Tries to please others. Musical. Sweet. Moral compass.

Amy: Youngest daughter. Artist. Adores beauty.  Materialistic. Pouter. Whiner. Can have temper. Vain.

When I first read the book a hundred years ago, I thought if myself as Beth.  But more the shy quiet Beth as opposed to the virtuous part.  I guess this is how I would define my younger self: quiet, out of the way, wanting to please others.  Thank gosh I got over the pleasing others part…

I think everyone wants to be Jo.  She is the protagonist and the strongest character in the book.  But, we can’t all be Jo…

So….how else would you describe the sisters?

Which sister are you?

Are there other literary characters that you identify with?

I know a woman who was named after Amy: were any of you named for one of these characters?

84 thoughts on “Jo, Meg, Beth or Amy

    1. Claudette, Which movie? There are three or more. All three were great if you are a fan of the book, although each film is a version that represents the time (decade) in which the movie was made. The newest PBS version is the most historically accurate, however, having a son who is in the film industry and now in the director’s guild, the way they make movies these days, the sets, costumes, dialogue, are very precise and way more accurate than the old “Hollywood.” way of producing films. This latest one is not as romanticized as prior films, but it is true to the novel in it’s original format.

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      1. I haven’t seen any of them but have seen clips with Winona Ryder… that’s the only one I’m familiar with.

        I’m asking because some movies don’t do justice to the book at all. 😊. But, some do a decent job of it. The Lord of the Rings was pretty good, some of the Grisham books turned into decent movies too.

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      2. Yes, I agree. I loved all “The Lord of the Rings” movies. I felt like they were bringing the characters to life. But I enjoy films after reading a novel. However, you are correct. An example of the worst adaptation was The Scarlet Letter with I think it was Demi Moore. It wasn’t at all like the movie. Worst ever!

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      1. Haven’t read the book – Little Women yet. Hopefully I will read it soon enough. My TBR list is long. 😀 Btw, do you want to participate in a giveaway? It’s been quite sometime since the post is up, I haven’t had any participants yet. Since you read books, I thought of asking you. 🙂

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      2. Just leave a comment on my post. The publishers will take care of sending you the package – A copy of Astronaut’s Son by Tom Seigel, two movie tickets to watch any movie of your choice and a pack of freeze dried ice cream. Thank you so much. 🙂💗

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  1. I missed my reading assignment, ma’am. But as I recall I am 60% Jo, 40% Meg. We used to play Little Woman when I was a girl. We’d dress up and then play house as if we were a character. We were easily amused girls, I guess.

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      1. I think it happens naturally with children. My grand daughter and grandson are only 20 months apart and a grade apart in school because of the birthday cut off. So in many ways they are like twins. They go through similar phases and act out stories. I introduced them to Winnie The Pooh quite a while back, and they had a ball with all the characters. We made sock puppets of them all then they did a puppet show using al the socks. Now they do that all the time with various other book characters. I think children like to play. So bringing characters to life is pretty normal. My grandson has a stop motion app on my iPad and makes Lego movies and does all the sound affects. He is Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and my grand daughter is Princess Leah and they take turns playing Lego Chewbacca. LOL It’s like playing with dolls or action figures, but using characters from movies or novels. Ah the beauty of being a child!!

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  2. Well, I have no sisters. Two brothers. The most interesting story and accurate story about brothers I’ve seen, although it was fiction, is Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison. Oldest brother was angel, outstanding character, follows all the rules, morally and ethically virtuous. Middle brother, more troubled, wild and irresponsible, free spirit that everyone loves but destined not to succeed in traditional societal roles. Youngest is a mix of the other two. It might be that we are all of these characters – it’s just that different traits come out at different points in our lives 🙂

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    1. Very good point…different things come out at different points in our lives…it’s funny that I hadn’t thought about a book for boys that resonates through the years….were you a reader when you were younger? Interesting to think about what boys read in their youth. I think I saw the movie legends of the fall…I’m going to have to check that out

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      1. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. Every Saturday, starting from when I was about 7, I’d walk about a mile to the library and spend the entire day reading. I used to love reading Greek Mythology, Biographies, anything science, and Hardy Boy adventures – LOL. I even took extra classes in the summer because I liked school. My oldest brother used to pass his favorites on to me and I really liked science fiction too. Good books are kind of like jewels 🙂

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      2. That’s great! My brother loved Treasure Island, my oldest son loved The Three Investigators -Hitchcock mysteries. And my youngest son was into Harry Potter. So boys have their literary heroes too.

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      3. Many congrats ! I’m recently retired too. I used to do some adjunct teaching – adults though. I still loved it when you saw them connect and light up with an idea you were trying to convey. Thank you for all your hard work as a teacher.

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      4. My daughters elementary school had a day where the kids dressed up as their literary hero. My daughter dressed as Kit from american girl. There were a lot of Harry’s…

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  3. I’m turning this around a bit because quite honestly I find that I don’t identify with any of the girls without pulling bits and pieces from each. I’m also in agreement with you–I might have been more of one sister when younger and now morphed into another as I have aged.
    I know little about Alcott but if we consider the time that this was written I have always felt that Alcott was an author (think Austen as an example), that was giving social commentary in her writing regarding women, place and what was acceptable. These 4 sisters seem like the quintessential images of 4 females who were likely judged by society for their womanly (or not) attributes and willingness to conform.
    Fast forward to 2018–many of the same stereotypical expectations still exist, LW is still timely in that sense and maybe we should resist defining ourselves in terms of just 1 of the sisters?

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    1. Oooh….such good points….these were stereotypes….we should definitely resist, but my thought is, things are stereotypes for a reason, and even if you don’t place yourself in a box, society does. It’s like what I wrote about a few months ago, how I like classical music and pop, indie films as well as blockbusters….but people still put me in a box. They think I can’t be both things….people are often judged by one thing, even though it’s only a part of them

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    2. The sisters were created and designed from her own sisters. They mirror her real life sisters in age and temperament. Her publisher had her marry off Jo. She wanted her to be single. So the irony is that while we see them as stereotypes they embodied her real sisters and real events in her own life.

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  4. I can’t imagine a movie about “Little Women.” To me, the story was about using your imagination as a teenager or maybe even younger (like 10-11 years old). Good exercise in creating an imagination and imagining those living a life and in times very different from us.

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      1. Well, when I was a kid, I wished it was one of the Jennifer/Tiffany/Stephanie names. Haha. But now? I’m fine with my name. It’s unique because most Beths are short for Elizabeth or Bethany. I’m just Beth. I once had a teacher ask me if Beth was short for Elizabeth and I said, no, just Beth. And that’s what he called me, Just Beth. Lol.

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      2. I have a stupidly common name (if you were born in the sixties anyway) which I like cause it’s pretty, but I would love something exotic…. love that your teacher called you just Beth!!

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      3. If I could have picked my own name it would hav e been Elizabeth after Elizabeth Bennett. I’ve written several stories and my heroine was either Elizabeth, Liz, Beth, some version of it. My name Lesley was given to me because my mom thought Leslie Howard, who played Ashley in Gone With the Wind was awesome. When he had a daughter he named her Lesley but spelled it with an ey. I’ve since learned that’s the feminine spelling.

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  5. We gave our daughter the middle name of Jo after my mom, Josephine, but also after Jo from Little Women. She was always my favorite character and I think I secretly want to be a writer, but given that I’m an introvert and not really tomboyish or high tempered, I guess I am more like a cross between Meg and Beth.

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    1. Not necessarily bad qualities. I have learned that “STRONG” qualities and independence were considered “bad” for a girl when I was growing up. (The 1950″s) But, those same qualities were encouraged in my brother, who was 2 and a half years older than I. It used to infuriate me that I could play sports better than he could, read better, do everything better, and I was reprimanded for it. He was encouraged to do everything I was doing because he was a boy. I don’t think you were bad. Assertive and free thinking, perhaps. Which are considered excellent qualities today!!! Don’t be so hard on yourself, Anne.

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  6. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Jo, but I am Meg to the core. I find myself being more Jo-like as I age, but Meg is still pretty stable within me. I do like it that Jo pops out at times – I guess that’s part of the tapestry of being over 50 and being able to explore other sides of ourselves that maybe were hidden. But that’s just me.
    My mom’s friend named her 4 daughters after the March sisters in order. Lucky for her she had 4 girls!

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    1. I love that she named her daughters after the March sisters!!! And I think we are all a little bit if the different characters…and definitely change as we get older. But that’s good…we should evolve!!

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      1. I agree. Evolving is necessary. That’s why I loved and embraced turning 50! I felt like it gave me a no holds barred freedom to be me in all of my charming (?) ways and I didn’t have to please anyone else (because I was now divorced). I had the freedom to be me and to find me again!

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  7. I guess I’m one of those four who has never read Little Women. I was interested in fantasy and science fiction at the age when most girls read it. I did recently read March, though, which is the imagined story of the father before, during and after his involvement with the war. I really enjoyed it and got to know the girls a bit through that book. Jo was the most appealing to me. The others seemed too docile and pretty uninteresting.

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    1. Jo is definitely the most well defined character. The theory is she was based on Alcott herself. I remember when my mom gave it to me I thought I wasn’t going to like it…and then it was magic….

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  8. I was always Jo. She was my first look at a strong female protagonist and I knew even as a child I had to be a feminist.
    My mother started reading the book to my brother, sister, and I, one chapter at night in the mid 1950’s. My sister was too little to care, but my older brother and I anxiously awaited hearing our mother’s dramatic voice read all the characters aloud. She never finished the novel and so I had to read the rest myself. Which I do believe now, looking back, was her plan all along. Because then my brother and I took over reading a few chapters aloud each night. And we began doing the voices, much like the March siblings would do with Jo’s plays. We did the same with Treasure Island, Huck Finn etc. All of which I am sure was my mother’s intention!!!

    But, I was always Jo. And my mother told me years later that she was too. My mom grew up in the depression era and would dress up in her brother’s clothing just so she could play baseball in the streets with the boys. They knew it was her, but my grandmother was fooled for quite a while. Until she dragged my mom back in the house by the ear to make her dress and sit and do crochet work like a lady. Needless to say that never happened. My mother was an athlete and it was she who taught my brother and my son to how to catch and hit a baseball. I wish she were alive to see my grand daughter playing soccer in her shiny pink uniform. She would have loved it. She ran track in high school along with women of color and played tennis. I so wish she hadn’t passed away at only 76 and could have seen how far women had advanced.

    But, back to the topic. The fact was, that My mother felt she was Jo March too and started a journal early on because of Jo. I still have that journal. It spans my mom’s entire life, up until she died. LM Alcott inspired generations of little women. I got into trouble for speaking my mind as a child, (It was of course the 1950’s and that was not considered very noble or polite at the time.) But I figured if Jo could do it, then so could I.
    I was an older sister, so if I had to blend a few characteristics I would say I watched out for my little sister like Meg. I was never quiet like Beth, but I was musical and played piano and was in an all girl’s rock band in the mid 1960’s…. And I was an artist like Amy. I started out majoring in art and drama in college before changing my major to education. During my hippie days I sold water colors and did calligraphy to support myself, so I suppose I was artistic like Amy. Maybe even a little vain too.

    Considering LM Alcott wrote these characters based on her real sisters, including the death of one, and also using the real Amy to illustrate the original novels, it is no wonder the characters are so realistic. The sisters reacted like real sisters because they WERE real sisters. They loved one another and fought with one another. They were devastated when one of them was hurt or sick, and they envied one another when they thought one had more advantages than the other. It was a real life family drama. Reality TV of the 1800’s!!!!

    My mother had to name me after a deceased ancestor (as is Jewish tradition), but she always said she would have named me Jo if she could have. As I began my teenage years she did call me Scarlet quite a bit since she thought my Aries personality was too much like the character of Scarlet Ohara. Her calling me that motivated me to read “Gone With The Wind” and when I saw how spoiled Scarlet was I was pretty insulted. UNTIL I saw how independent her character actually was. Then I rather liked being linked to her.

    LM Alcott was born in 1832, one hundred and seventeen years before I entered the world, yet still her book spoke to me. There is something so universal about the bond of sisters that transcends time.

    In regards to all the “Little Women” movies. I have seen them all. I loved each of them since they all represent the time period in which they were made. The newest one was excellent. Probably more like the book than previous films which romanticized the novel. But they were all wonderful. Every couple of years I re-watch one of the versions. Rider’s Jo is probably my favorite, but the newest one is brilliantly done and the director is female, which makes it even more relevant.

    BTW, thanks for revisiting Little Women. Such a wonderful topic to discuss and to remind us of how we all are a sisterhood of sorts!

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    1. When I first mentioned law a few weeks ago I was actually amazed by how many people resonated with the book and the characters. I thought any book that could do that deserved another post. Great thoughts and comments!!❤️❤️

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  9. I so wish I had had the pleasure of teaching those of you who haven’t yet read “Little Women”. If you had been in my class in either 4th or 5th grade, you would have read the novel. Depending on the state in which you live, American History is taught in either 4th or 5th grade and therefore, to go along with the Civil War time line, I always had my students read “Little Women”. (Along with a variety of other novels.) Boys as well as girls enjoyed reading it. Much of the hardships of the War are brought to life so students could not only relate to the marvelous sisters, but also the conditions brought about during that time in history. I often wonder why it isn’t required any more since American History is indeed part of the elementary, middle school and high school curriculum. And this novel has a plethora of lessons to tie in to the history aspect, as well as society, and reading in general. PUS, it teaches young girls to develop a strong sense of self and independence.

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