Making the Grades
"I'll never get over being a girl!" bemoans Jo -- short for Josephine -- March. Left in the company of her mother and three sisters after Mr. March enlists in the American Civil War, the tomboy (played by June Allyson) resolves to fill her absent father's role despite her femine handicap.
But preserving the family's domestic bliss isn't without challenges. Jo rallies the girls together to make the most out of the Christmas season even though monetary means are meager. She willingly makes sacrifices to support her mother's charitable acts (Mary Astor), and zealously overprotects her sisters.
Yet the futility of her self-imposed task becomes apparent as soon as she meets their new neighbor. Discharged from the army after his true age is discovered, Laurie Laurence (Peter Lawford) has come to reside with his grandfather. Excited at the prospect of associating with a ?real? boy, Jo pays little attention to his obvious wealth. However, her immediate junior, Amy (Elizabeth Taylor), who has tried to make up for their economic losses with an abundance of pride, is quick to see the advantages of such a prestigious friendship. Nor is Jo much concerned with introductions to the young man's tutor, Mr. Brook (Richard Wyler), until she notices his keen interest in the porcelain-doll beauty of older sister Meg (Janet Leigh). Even the youngest, Beth (Margaret O'Brien), seems destined to be transformed forever after swallowing her shyness and accepting an invitation to practice music on the Laurences' very expensive piano.
Feeling threatened by the assault of change, the headstrong girl attempts to fortify her family by clinging to childhood and savoring the joys of youth. Unfortunately none of her siblings are willing to enlist in her cause. Even escaping into her favorite pastime of writing melodramatic fiction fails, and Jo is forced to admit defeat. For the first time in her life, the young lady must seriously consider what she will become when she grows up.
Based on the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, the story offers endearing characters that struggle with the universal dilemma of knowing what things to let go of and what things to hold on to with both hands. Although the production doesn't do an outstanding job of aging the cast to enhance the sense of passage of time, the script provides excellent examples of courage, love and selfless sacrifice as these girls seek to fulfill their potential. The audience can't help but be swept away in the portrayal of the simple pleasures and sorrows of family life, and the bittersweet experience becoming Little Women can be.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Little Women (1949).
In one scene Jo asks her mother if she has any ?plans? for her daughters future. Her mother lovingly replies that she wants to see her daughters grow up to be beautiful, good, accomplished, admired, loved and respected. She wants them to lead pleasant, useful lives, with as little sorrow as the Lord sees fit. And she would rather see them as happy wives of poor men, or respectable old maids, than to be queens on thrones without peace or self-respect.
Louisa May Alcott wrote this novel long before the Feminist movement of the 1960s reshaped the goals young women considered for their future. Does Mrs. Marchs vision still capture the dreams modern mothers have for their daughters, or has time altered those sentiments? What do you feel are the most important things for girls to accomplish?
The March family is considered poor, even though they live in a comfortable home and employ a domestic servant. How would you describe an impoverished lifestyle? How does the prevailing standard of living influence your perception of wealth and poverty?