Little Women: A modern adaptation for an enlightened audience by Eleanor Briggs - Profesora de Inglés - Madrid

Eleanor Briggs

Profesora de Inglés

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Little Women: A modern adaptation for an enlightened audience

I recently went to the cinema to see the 2019 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott´s "Little Women", and I was pleasantly surprised. 

The story follows the 4 March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and their transition from childhood to womanhood. Unlike the previous movie adaptation, or indeed the original novel, the 2019 movie begins towards the end of the story, when the sisters are grown up. The film consists of a continuous ´current´ plotline which is interspersed with flashbacks to important scenes that impacted on the girls´ development. 

As a story-telling technique, this was extremely well-executed and gave a sense of the passage of time without becoming a drearily long ´coming of age´ tale. In particular, the re-arrangement of the timeline allowed the director to explore specific parts from the novel, rather than having to recount everything in detail. Certain important, character-building moments could be emphasised, and each sister could have a series of flashbacks to develop their own personal story, without detracting from the overall message.

In particular, this movie came across as a refreshing, feminist take on the beloved story. Many people identify with one of the sisters, whether the domestic and responsible Meg, wild and creative Jo, artistic and ambitious Amy or homely and musical Beth. 

Each sister provides an important balance to the narrative, and the film therefore does not feel as though it drags on or spends too much time on one character. 

Specifically, the morals and lessons that the film portrays have been updated for the 21st Century. Meg´s desire for beautiful things is portrayed as economic frustration at being unable to earn her own money, rather than snobbery; Jo´s wild nature and creativity is portrayed as a strength, and she is shown learning to use it to her advantage; Beth´s quiet and peacekeeping personality is shown as being the link that keeps her family united, and bringing joy to those who might otherwise be overlooked; most importantly, Amy´s ambition and obsession with marrying well is treated delicately, and emphasises the lack of control women had over their lives, and thus the importance of marrying to secure a good life for themselves and their families. 


Although some of the original messages of the book, such as faith in God and the importance of motherhood, were left out, the film nevertheless took a classic novel and presented it in a format that enchants and engages the modern audience.

Women in the modern era do not necessarily want to hear about the virtues of being quiet, gentle, reflective, motherly, tender and religious. Although these are good character traits, they also served the socio-political context of the time in which the novel was written.

Modern women want the freedom to have a family AND work, to have the choice to work, to be loud and opinionated, to be taken seriously, to be passionate and creative, to be quiet and strong,  to have financial security without having to compromise their values on romance, or to like pretty things and be able to buy them, without having to account for their spending to the men in their life.


Therefore, the movie moves with the times, and provides the moral backbone of the original story with a socio-political context that women  today can relate to and understand.

All in all, I laughed, cried and thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation, especially the amazing acting by Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Timothée Chalamet, who brought dignity, vitality and modernity to the characters in this cherished story from my childhood.
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