Why Little Women Is An Important Feminist Film

Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of “Little Women” takes a decidedly feminist approach to the classic novel. With a star studded cast including Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, and Timothée Chalamet, the story centers around the four March sisters growing up during the Civil War era. However, their coming of age seems to transcend time period, and the experience of the sisters transitioning to adulthood remains relatable to young girls today. Both timeless and timely, watching the four sisters navigate friendship, family, and falling in love compels the viewer reflect on feminism both in the present and past. 

Perhaps one of the most shocking moments of the movie is when Amy, the youngest sister, explains why she intends to marry a wealthy man, even though she may not love him. Speaking to Laurie, a long time family friend who is wealthy himself, she tells him that for women, marriage is an economic proposition. Lacking economic independence, Amy has known from an early age that she must use marriage to ensure a secure future. 

Jo, the main character of the story, is given the ending that she always deserved in the movie. When Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women,” her editor insisted that the book could not be published unless Jo ended up married. Alcott conceded, although she had always intended to end the story with Jo unmarried, since writing, not marriage, was her ultimate aspiration. By interweaving Alcott’s own biography into the movie and having Jo write the novel “Little Women,” Gerwig leaves Jo’s marriage up to the interpretation of the viewer, finally doing Jo’s story justice. In an emotional scene, Jo tells Marmee that she is sick of people telling her that women are only fit for marriage, but at the same time she is lonely. The fictional Jo in the book within the movie may have her storybook happy marriage, but Jo the author finds fulfillment in her writing. For those of us who read “Little Women” as young girls, Gerwig gives us both a nostalgic happy ending and a modern dose of progressive feminism.

(Wilson Webb/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

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