Little Women: Comparing Two Movie Versions of this Famous Novel

Little Women, written by Louisa May Alcott, is a book about four sisters growing up together. The four girls all have their own characteristics. There have been many movies made about this book; the most classical one was the movie directed by Gillian Armstrong in 1994, and the newest one was directed by Greta Celeste Gerwig in 2019. The two movies are both very amazing, but they have many differences. I’d like to discuss the three differences I found. (There are more than three differences, but these are the major ones that I noticed!)

The Description of Amy March

In the book, Amy is the third child in the family. In the movie in 1994, she’s the fourth child, and in the 2019 movie, she’s still the third child. 

In the classical movie directed by Gillian Armstrong: I think Amy in this movie is closer to the description in the book (despite her age). We are following what Jo sees mainly, so we didn’t learn much about Amy. The most I could tell about Amy is that she’s on the opposite side of Jo, and she’s selfish. There isn’t much description about her falling into extremely cold water when chasing Jo on the ice, and some have said that she fell deliberately and she‘s calculating. (I couldn’t believe it! She wasn’t more than 10 years old, and she may have fallen into the cold river and nearly died deliberately?) Her marriage to Laurie seems very strange, as well. We don’t really know why they began to love each other so suddenly.

In the new movie directed by Greta Celeste Gerwig:  Amy is more charming in this movie. Her marriage to Laurie seems to be more reasonable as well. In this movie, Amy knows exactly what she wants, and she’s trying to get it. She’s mature, confident, and rational. When Amy saw that Laurie was living a chaotic life, she blamed him, and she’s the main reason Laurie didn’t end up as a bum. When Laurie told Amy that she shouldn’t marry a wealthy man that she doesn’t love, she analyzed her position thoroughly. She said that women in the time period she was living in couldn’t live a wealthy life by themselves unless they were talented enough. Even if they were talented, they would still meet plenty of obstacles because of their gender. Amy knew that although she was good at drawing, she wasn’t that talented. Furthermore, her family was poor. Her sister Meg married a poor man who loved her; Jo didn’t earn much (not yet) from writing her stories, and Beth, who was ill, wanted to stay with her family. The March family needed steady financial support, so what Amy could do was to give up her dream, and make herself wealthy. Jo and Laurie were having fun together most of the time, but Amy and Laurie were discussing their future and their positions in society. This may be the reason why they got married. Furthermore, Amy refused a wealthy man who was pursuing her after her conversation with Laurie. She didn’t force Laurie to marry her after refusing the other man (although she did refuse that man mainly because of Laurie); rather, she said this was her own decision and no one else needs to make that decision for her. She’s so charming!!!

The Ending for Jo March

In the classical movie directed by Gillian Armstrong: This ending fits the book the most. Jo gets married to a professor who understands the articles she writes and who can give her feedback to improve her writing. From this movie we learn more thoroughly why Jo didn’t marry Laurie; Laurie is an interesting person, but he can’t understand her articles, and writing is the most important aspect of Jo’s life. 

In the new movie directed by Greta Celeste Gerwig: This ending fits the author, Ms. Louisa May Alcott, the most. At the end of the movie, when Jo was talking to the publisher about publishing her book, “Little Women,” the scene shifted to her chasing the professor in the rain. Because of this scene, the ending can be understood in two different ways. We can say that Jo married the professor, but, an even bigger possibility could be that Jo did not marry anyone; instead, she wrote in her story that “Jo” married the professor. The reason why this ending fits the author better is that the author, Alcott, had said in an interview that she actually didn’t want Jo to get married. She added Jo’s marriage into the story because the publisher said that girls must get married, as most women at that time did. Ms. Alcott herself never got married either.

Aunt March

In the classical movie directed by Gillian Armstrong: Aunt March in this movie better fits the description of her in the book. She is a typical aunt who wants each of the girls to get married to a man who is as wealthy as possible.

In the new movie directed by Greta Celeste Gerwig: In this movie, Aunt March’s character gets some additional attention. She understood the situation of women clearly. When Jo asked Aunt March why she didn’t get married, she replied, “Because I’m rich.” Her actions seem reasonable; women in that time period needed to get married, unless they were rich, because that could give them a stable life.

In a nutshell, the classical movie is closer to the book, and the newer movie made all the characters seem more charming and gave a good explanation of their actions. Finally, I must say that I strongly recommend both of the movies and the book!