Little Women is one of the best-loved classic stories of all time written by Louisa May Alcott. 

Little Woman is a story about the March family which consists of Marmee and her lovely daughters Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth March. The story portrays the life of the girls and how they develop their relationship with each other as time passes. With the conflict of the absence of their father due to war, their wealth, and Beth’s sickness. The story continues on how they cope with all the problems and obstacles they encounter.

When the novel was published in 1868, it became very successful and the time and is now considered a classic that is impactful to the people in every era. And even though the novel was published over 150 years ago, it is still being talked about today. When the story is made into a film again in 2019, it brings the March family back into the limelight once again. It is very impressive how the story from such a long time ago made a comeback and still got famous. One of the factors is the storytelling was different. The movie portrays a different narrative style from the book that causes interesting new perspectives from the character to the audience.

Little Women has been made into feature films several times before in 1917, 1918, 1933, 1949, 1994, and of course most recently in 2019 by Greta Gerwing. While the 1994 version has been critically acclaimed from its cast, Gerwig’s 2019 version of Little Women added a modernized perspective to the original story.

Different in storytelling

The most significant difference is the storytelling style in the movie differs from the book. Originally in the novel, it started from portraying the March family as a whole when all the girls were still young and flowed along with a straight timeline until the end. 

But in the movie, they changed things a little bit to make it different and more interesting. Starting the movie from the present time of each character (the four sisters) as a grown woman and entering a shift in their pasts making it more intense to show the causes of their actions in the current time. Even if the main character is Jo, the movie didn’t leave out the other sisters and decided to portray the story of their lives as well. Because in the end, it’s a heart-warming family story. 

According to an interview with Greta Gerwig by Vanity Fair, she said that there are two reasons why she chose this way to narrate the story. The reason why she begins the story with the present time is because she thought that “If I can start when they’re adults all in their separate lives, then childhood becomes this thing that they’re yearning to get back to almost like a snow globe of the halcyon days gone by because they’re figuring out how to capture that bravery and bigness and ambition they had in girlhood and connection with each other that they had in order to move forward.” said Greta. 

She also mentioned that she chose to tell the story from Jo’s perspective because she admires Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, so she wanted to mirror her life through Jo. She wanted to bring up the fact that Louisa May Alcott never got married but yet owned her copyright and became one of the wealthiest writers by herself. 

“The story of Louisa May Alcott, how amazing she was. I realized while I was researching it that Jo March had been this heroine of my youth. And then as I’m doing my due diligence that Louisa May Alcott became the heroine of my adulthood. What she did, that she wrote all this down. She made the lives of girls and women a best-seller. And that was extraordinary. And there are all these ways in which Louisa May Alcott’s life mirrors Jo, that she had three sisters and that she wanted to be a writer, but there are places where they diverge.”

Some details were cut off from the book and some points were added in the movie

Of course, in making a film some details might be cut off to make a movie that has a time limit. It would definitely take more than one film to cover everything like the little other fights between Jo and Amy, the relationships between Meg and Mr. Brooke, the story of Mr. March and his love for his family, or the importance of Aunt March to the girls.

Some points that the book cannot present is the facial expression between each break of a conversation. The film added more depth and perspective than the book. Sometimes actors are a big factor for emotional attachment to the audience toward their character. So they decided to add some more details on some particular issues like the relationship between Jo and the publisher. Showing her passion and her stubbornness to make her story published and became a writer as she’s dreamed of. The point of Jo’s fight with Professor Bhaer which was more intense. It was used as one of the scenes to pave her struggles in the movie. Or the big moment where Amy expresses her thoughts on women’s rights issues.

More awareness of feminism

Marrying a rich man will solve all the problem

Since the movie mainly focuses on the March girls, this movie portrays a lot about how the girls are and how they are treated. 

Marriage tends to be the thing that determines the biggest success of a girl’s life. Women are not able to work and make money on their own. They are expected to marry a rich man to help their family wealth instead of finding a job and support the family with their salary.

There is a scene where Aunt March scold Meg when she decided to marry a local teacher as stupid since his money status is not stable enough. It is presented as the husband must be the leader of the family and has to be reliable, rich and smart. Consequently, women only like to marry a wealthy man, which is not applicable to Meg. She chose happiness rather than money.

As well as the scene where Amy told Laurie that “Well, I’m not a poet, I’m just a woman. And as a woman, there’s no way for me to make my own money, not enough to earn a living or to support my family”

This reflected the traditional belief that women cannot earn money by themselves.

However, the main point of this story is to show that the belief of women cannot earn money for a living and they need men is not true. As in the end, Jo became a writer and was wealthy by herself not needing to marry a rich man.

Does a Happy ending only occur when a woman gets together with a man?

In the movie, Jo decided to write a book and publish it to make money for her family by herself but when she showed it to the press editor, he tried to convince Jo that her main female character should end up being married, to have a man by her side. Happy-ending cannot happen when a woman ends up being independent. Even though she consisted of writing it at first, she ended up inserting it in her book anyway. However, in the movie, she did not get married like the book she wrote nor in the novel version. 

Greta Gerwig tries to put multiple perspectives in the ending including hers, Jo’s and Louisa’s. This is why the ending of the movie is different from what it is in the book. Jo ends up marrying Professor Bhaer according to the novel but the movie does not really mention the marriage. Instead, the marrying issue tends to take its role in Jo’s novel that she changes it due to the intention of the publisher. Since Jo character mirrors Louisa May Alcott’s life and she didn’t get married, and the director (Greta Gerwig) also respect her as an independent woman who was one of the wealthiest self-made women in America, she decided to put a different ending in the movie to honor Louisa as well. 

“Part of what I wanted to do was 150 years later give her an ending she might have liked. I thought if we can’t do this now then we’ve really made no progress and we should all hang our heads (laughs). But the structure truly came out of wanting to introduce this layer of authorship everywhere in it, how we author our own lives even if we’re not writers and how we kind of tell and retell the story of how we became who we are” – Greta Gerwig in DGA Podcast 

School for girls and boys instead of only for boys

At the end of the story both in the book and movie, Jo formed a boarding school. The difference is that in the book it mentioned that it is a school for boys only but in the movie, it showed that there are boys and girls attending that school. We believe that Greta Gerwig changed this part to send a message about women’s rights on the right to education, that men and women should receive the same level of education.   

The story of Little Women is a classic period drama that has been told several times in many different media since its first conception more than 150 years ago, and it is without a doubt one of the most interesting coming-of-age stories that are relevant even today, and there are no better ways to experience this story than the original 1868 novel and the 2019 film adaptation. 

Even though there are differences in the story, both options offer a great perspective on the lives of the characters and events. This novel will always be a classic that deserves a read from people of all ages and genders, and the 2019 film brought new life to the characters in a wonderful way with a great cast of actors and wonderful performances by the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, and Emma Watson.

No matter how you choose to consume it whether reading the original novel by Louisa May Alcott or watching the 2019 film adaptation by the amazing Greta Gerwig, the story of the little women of the March family is sure to charm and entertain you in every way. Little Women is a wonderful coming-of-age story that is sure to captivate both the readers and watchers, and we encourage everyone, no matter who you are, to give the book a read and the film a watch.