A Letter to Louisa May Alcott….
Alternative Title: Adventures in WHY CAN’T WE REWRITE HISTORY!
Girlfriend to girlfriend, I just have to say it. You screwed up. Big time. 146 years ago you penned arguably the biggest literary tragedy.
When I picture you first writing away on this book for girls that your editor asked you to write (that you really didn’t want to at all), I picture you pretty angsty but filled with diligence. You used your craft to create this beautiful novel of sisterhood, female empowerment, and forgiveness. But really, emphasis on the forgiveness because I still cannot forgive Amy’s actions- burning Jo’s manuscript like that! No way!
That’s beside the point. As I was saying, you wrote this story quickly- both for money and to just be done with it. It was a subject you yourself didn’t know how to process. Because if anything, Little Women was both your reality and your fantasy. You wrote yourself and your family in the story as the Marchs. While they lived an admirable yet simple life of modest means, your family struggled with poverty and at times, even hunger. While Mr. March was away during a noble war, your father was home due to his inability to find work and provide for your family. The burden was on your shoulders so you wrote Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy.
Meg, sweet Meg, the ideal mold for the woman of your time. You were able to use Jo (who we’ll get to shortly) as liberation from this but at the same time wrote Meg with such love and admiration. Girls for generations after are now able to love girls like Meg without anger or disappointment for choosing a life of a housewife.
And Beth, perfect and selfless Saint with a capital S, broke our hearts in a million pieces with her tragic and untimely death. She makes my Top Ten List of Characters to Mourn, right after Fred Weasley and before Rue.
I’ll even thank you, Maude, for Amy, even though she’s the absolute worst. As a kid, she was bratty and spoiled and then was rewarded with a life-changing trip to Europe! But the true reason that Amy is deplorable (I already touched on the manuscript-burning didn’t I?) is that she’s no Jo.
Jo, my kindred spirit, if I only I could take you out to Galentine’s Day. Maude, you gave us a feisty and uncompromising heroine of imaginative and fearsome measure. She was snappy, witty, and fiercely loyal; she was everything the women of your time weren’t allowed to be. She chopped off her hair, moved to New York, and in an act of willful independence, made the biggest mistake in modern literature.
Maude, why? Why did you do this to us?
You gave us the final member of the March troupe. Laurie “Teddy” Laurence. Ever playful, caring, and amiable, he always supported and admired Jo’s imagination and ambition. He mourned the fact Jo couldn’t go with him to Harvard as much as she did. And I’m not just saying all this because of Christian Bale’s splendid portrayal. After years of friendship, he proposed. And despite the perfection of both of them…
SHE REJECTS HIM.
In a move that has shocked, frustrated, and angered generation after generation of women, you cruelly crushed our hopes with an act of independence that afterwards left us begrudgingly impressed. Jo’s harsh rejection of Laurie’s puppy-love marriage proposal emancipated her from societal expectations but then giving us the German professor as a consolation prize didn’t seem too fair. The salt in the wound though, the completely unforgiving act you wrote next, was putting Laurie with Amy. Not only did it seem inorganic and forced, it just didn’t seem fair to our beloved characters.
So anyway, Maude, thanks for the story and thanks for the rage. It’s what makes your book so lasting and a modern classic.
But really, though, this is my Number 1 on my List of Books I Wish I Could Rewrite.
Because look, just look at what was Meant to Be.