In the novel Little Women, Louisa May Alcott tells the story of four sisters growing up with their father away at war, a mother (do they say much about the mother) and having to learn the responsibilities of domestic chores. Each sister is portrayed as having a different artistic talent and all but one have a talent acceptable for women at that time. The exception is the rebellious and spirited Jo March, who pursues the then-considered masculine role of writing. Through her creative imagination, her rebelliousness against becoming a “typical” girl and her determination to persevere in her writing, Jo shows that a woman’s role can be expanded and women generally can achieve much more personal satisfaction than was normal at that time.
It is because Jo took the initiative to act on her creative and imaginative talents that she became an inspiration for woman. Jo is portrayed as the kind of girl who never lets herself get bored, “Can’t keep still all day, and not being a pussycat, I don’t like to doze by the fire. I like adventures, and I’m going to find some.” (p.254) With that Jo took off for the afternoon (do you know what she did?) able to keep busy with her imagination as her guide. No matter what is going on around the March house, through her creativity, Jo is always able to keep herself amused and entertained (can you give an example). It is this constant imaginative thinking that aids Jo in becoming a great writer. The four sisters had created their own secret society within the March house and on rainy days they would convene their meetings. There they would read over a newspaper, which they had created and Jo, of course, “who reveled in pens and ink, was the editor” (p.287). In participating in this activity, Jo is able to indulge her creative talents by writing stories and poems for the March newspaper. This, she believed was good practice and would hold her in good stead for when she could be a real writer.
During the time in which this novel is set, women were expected to stay at home to cook, clean the house and look after the children. For Josephine March that kind of labour simply would be torture. Her thoughts were, “Its bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boys’ games and work and manners! I can’t ever get over my disappointment in not being a boy” (P. 228). Jo enjoyed playing boys’ games and doing boys’ labour and in fact, Jo’s lack of being the perfect lady shows when she and Meg are invited to a party. Meg has to remind Jo, “you should remember that you are a young lady “ (p.228) when Jo arrives at the party with a stain on her dress and no gloves. Later, Jo and Meg go on an outing and Meg is horrified by the hat that Jo is going to wear to keep the sun off her face, “Oh, Jo, you are not going to wear that awful hat? It’s too absurd! You shall not make a guy(?) of yourself” (p.302). Meg is embarrassed by her sister’s lack of interest in the feminine niceties. This is particularly so when they are on an outing where young men are present and Meg wishes to make a good impression. Jo hasn’t a thought in the world about her image. What she does care so passionately about is her writing and the wish that it be taken seriously.
One night Jo has the task of cooking dinner for her sisters and two guests. She soon finds out that “something more then energy and good will is necessary to make a cook” (p.297). The “bread burned black” and the “cream turned sour” demonstrate that domestic chores are not Jo’s strong point.
The other three sisters are anxious to grow up and get married. This is a typical attitude for young women at the time as it is thought to be very unladylike to be interested in or desirous of fending for oneself. Jo has no desire to marry and rely on a man for (financial?/emotional?) support. She feels that all the love she needs is right there in her family. When her sister Meg decides to get married, Jo feels like she’s losing part of herself.
As the oldest daughter (I think she was?), she has always shouldered a fair amount of responsibility, particularly with not having her father at home. Jo wanted a career and the ability to be self-supporting. She would look at men and see the opportunities for interesting careers that were open to them and long for the day when she could share her writings with others. These certainly were not the dreams of the typical girl whose only goal is to get married and start a family. Jo would rather have her career and take care of herself.
Women were not allowed to publish their own works but that didn’t stop Jo from privately writing her own stories and plays. Upstairs in the attic Jo and her sisters were constantly performing the plays she wrote. In fact, her sisters were her biggest supporters, “I don’t see how you can write and act such splendid things Jo. You’re a regular Shakespeare!” (P.230) Jo continued to write from childhood through to adulthood. Always the passion to be a writer stood clear in her mind. “I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous: that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream” (p.314).
It was in the attic that Jo would work away at her writing. Finally finishing a piece of work Jo exclaimed, “There, I’ve done my best! If this won’t suit I shall have to wait till I can do better” (p.317). No matter how many drafts she had to write, Jo would continue until her work was perfect. Despite many rejections (?) Jo kept writing. Jo’s first submission to a newspaper which was accepted did not earn her any money; seeing as the newspaper did not pay beginners, but this slight disappointment did not sway her for Jo could only think of the future and how “in time I may be able to support myself…and this seemed to be the first step toward the happy end” (p.323).
Did she ever use a pen name?
Woman at the time of this novel lead a very structured life. Josephine March chose to defy these rules of society and do what made her happy. Even though her chosen field was male oriented, she persevered and achieved her goal: to become a writer. The character of Jo March is an inspiration for woman because she shows them that with hard work and determination the impossible can be done. Through her creativity, her rebellious nature not to be like every other girl and her perseverance she is a success.