Reflections of an Amy Who Thought She Was a Jo

Loving Little Women means wanting to be Jo March. That's just a fact of life.

Okay, maybe not for everyone — but I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that I've always felt a connection to Jo. From a very young age, I knew I wanted to write, and Jo was the perfect role model for that dream. She was much more interested in carving out a life for herself than adhering to society's expectations for 19th-century women, and the struggles that she faced in both the novel and recent film adaptation are as relevant today as ever.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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So, imagine my surprise when I took a quiz on Buzzfeed (the ultimate authority on these sorts of things) and was informed that I am, in fact, an Amy and not a Jo. That's right, the same Amy that burns Jo's writings as revenge for not taking her to the theatre. The same Amy that went to Paris with Aunt March even though she originally promised to take Jo. The same Amy that married Laurie even though he seemed perfect for Jo. Basically, Jo's antithesis.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Except, not really. Amy may be quite different from Jo, but she's hardly a bad role model. Like Jo, Amy dreams of being an artist – only she would rather paint than write. Unlike Jo, however, Amy is shown to value her art primarily as a means of expressing herself. When she travels to Paris with Aunt March, she's faced with the realization that she may not become "the best painter in the world" that she previously dreamed of being:

"Talent isn't genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing.”

That quote might seem overdramatic, but it's a testament to Amy's drive to succeed. She knows that only the best of the best can truly support themselves by being a painter, and she doesn't want to waste her energy trying if it would be better spent on a more realistic venture.

In fact, Amy is just as driven as Jo — just in a different way. With Beth's illness, Meg's marriage to a poor tutor and Jo's refusal to put marriage before her own career, Amy knows that she's the one who has to ensure her family's survival. She recognizes that her career as a painter isn't going to pan out the way she dreamed and that an economically-advantageous marriage is likely her only option. When Laurie pushes back on her choice to abandon her dream and marry a wealthy suitor, she explains her predicament —and the predicament of so many women of her time — perfectly:

"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, and if I had my own money, which I don’t, that money would belong to my husband the moment we got married. And if we had children, they would be his, not mine. They would be his property, so don’t sit there and tell me that marriage isn’t an economic proposition, because it is. It may not be for you, but it most certainly is for me."

The above quote was added by Greta Gerwig in her adaptation of Little Women, and it perfectly serves to remind the audience of the reality of Amy's situation — a reality that would have been familiar to contemporary readers of the book, but potentially foreign to today's readers. It's that addition, among many, that makes Gerwig's adaptation so striking. If you had asked me a few months ago, I would never have accepted being an Amy. But seeing her character fleshed out in the way she deserves has fully converted me. Jo, I'll always love you — but I'm proud to be an Amy.