This Bird caught one of her favorite movies on television recently, the 1994 film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's novel, Little Women. Neither the movie nor the book are by any means new, but seeing it again reminded me how much I loved them both. It was one of my favorite books growing up, perfectly capturing an era with the delicacy and precious care of a fine needlepoint. I remember reading it and being totally drawn into the small daily details and activities of the March family as they lived through the tumultuous era of the Civil War. The short interludes of the March sisters -- Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy -- and their wise mother, dear Marmee, take the reader through much of author Alcott's own experiences during that time of North versus South. Resources were short, given the wartime efforts, and it was a time where women had not the voice or authority they have now, so women were limited in where their ambitions could take them. Despite the different eras, it's still a story that has renewed significance for these modern times, as we are in our own state of economic downturn and many families are left without a key figure, as loved ones are gone, sent off to war.
The simple wisdom of true family values resonates with every chapter of the book. Where else do you get such wonderful motherly advice like this, as told by Marmee to her daughters on the subject of money and marriage: "Money is a needful and precious thing -- and, when well used, a noble thing --but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace."
The film adaptation is so lovingly crafted, it's one of my favorites that I could watch over and over. Normally I tend to watch this around the holidays. Not that it's really a yuletide movie; while the story spans many years and there are several Christmases featured, I think it's the feeling of family and togetherness that inspires seasonal viewing. It's truly a perennial movie. The scenes showing the changing of seasons, the falling leaves of autumn, the verdant greens of summer and the picture-perfect snows of winter makes you wish you could live at the March's Orchard House forever. The celebration of fresh fruit or a rare sugary treat truly illustrate the joys of simple pleasures, and being thankful for the little things. The dreamy-eyed hopes of the March sisters when they're young, thinking ahead to what the future will bring is like living in the sweetly-spun gossamer of a pristine wish. Even when the girls choose their paths in life, you take the journey with them. The film has one of my favorite tear-jerker scenes with an ailing Beth March played by Claire Danes, bravely facing the unknown with her headstrong sister Jo, played by Winona Ryder. That's one of the best, most heartbreaking things you'll ever see, and it leaves me in tearful shambles every time, and I love it even more, every time I see it.
But Little Women isn't just about sadness, the movie and book are very much about happiness and the pursuit of dreams, without sacrificing one's moral courage and intelligence. Before the inane Girl Power marketing of the Spice Girls, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women was the true anthem for the youth, especially girls, to face the future with bravery and tenacity in their hearts. And, just for the record, to this day I'm still upset that Jo never accepted Laurie's proposal. So there.
Jaunty Fine Print: photos from IMDB.com