Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Published by Roberts Brothers

FOLLOWING the most recent successful film adaptation by Greta Gerwig with stars such as Timothée Chalamet and Florence Pugh, the popularity of a childhood favourite of mine has grown with young people to my delight.

While I believe many older texts can relate to the experiences of youth, when I am asked about introducing classic literature to children, Little Women has always been what I suggest first.

The story follows the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy who are 16, 15, 13 and 12 respectively. The point of life they are at is vital to the way they perceive the experiences they have, a point only highlighted by the fact that the novel seems to be told through a collection of stories.

It is a reminder that when complex relationships, emotions and morals are woven into every moment, even the seemingly insignificant details and mundane days can stand out in the memory, particularly when growing up.

It does in fact become clear to the reader how these experiences, particularly befriending the wealthy orphan boy Laurie, who Jo becomes closest to, or practising charity, shape them.

They are forced as they grow to learn morality and responsibilities alongside coming to terms with their own emotions and desires.

Meg, as the oldest, is on the verge of marriage, motherhood and the responsibilities they have been observing their mother acting out, while her junior of only a year, Jo, is a writer, wild at heart and desperate to retain freedom.

Beth is quiet, giving and deeply empathetic, often leaving room for others to take attention, particularly Amy, the youngest, who does not have the fear or knowledge of the adulthood to come and still enjoys vanity, art and whimsy.

It is often said that every young woman is likely to find herself in one of these sisters, however, it’s always seemed to me more possible that together they represent the whole experience of transition to adulthood.

Jo with her tomboyish nature, hot temper and passion for literature is easy for many readers to relate to. However, each of them in some way displays deeply relatable emotions and experiences.

Little Women encapsulates a feminist concept still relevant today – the idea that childhood is free, children may play together without thinking deeply about gender and may see the future as exciting. The reality that girls are expected to accept the patriarchal roles they must fulfil as Meg does is one still spoken about today.

For the fun characters and educational stories, I would recommend this to children, and for the empathetic approach to the fear of womanhood replacing freedom, I would recommend it to teenage girls.

Alcott’s novel is not pessimistic in this way, but a reminder that frustration and complexity of emotion are natural. Read it because today, one can fight not just to be one type of woman but to continue to contain the multitudes of the iconic March sisters.