5 Surprising Lessons from Little Women
- Vivian Bricker Contributing Writer
- 2022 15 Feb
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a beloved classic book that is filled with family, love, and losses. Although Little Women was originally published in 1868, it is still a cherished story among readers of all ages.
Recently Little Women has grown in popularity due to the multiple film adaptations, such as Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of Little Women starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep, and Timothée Chalamet.
If you are a fan of Little Women, whether of the book or movie(s), here are some lessons to help you in your Christian walk.
Growing Up with Little Women
When I was a child, my mother read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott to my sisters and me. Little Women was a favorite of my mother’s, and she often compared my sisters and me to the different characters in the book. To be honest, when I was a child, I didn’t really understand the story.
I more so just enjoyed hearing my mother read and spending time with my sisters. It wasn't until I was older that the plotline became much more interesting to me. The main characters of Little Women include the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy as well as their mother, father, Aunt March, and Laurie.
If you have not read this coming-of-age tale, I couldn't recommend it more. The four March sisters each have their own unique temperaments, interests, and desires. Meg is the oldest and she has a desire for the fancy things of life, such as becoming married and wearing elegant gowns.
Jo is the second eldest and rumor has it that Jo is supposed to represent Alcott’s own life. Jo is a free-spirited individual, who wants to make something of her life. She doesn’t fit in with the other sisters as she has no desire to be married and she is a tomboy.
She would rather live a life of adventure and freedom. The third March sister is Beth, who is an inspiring pianist. Beth is presented as a gentle and caring sister, who sadly passes away during the book. The youngest sister is Amy, and she is artistic, striving after higher society, and longing for love.
Each of these four sisters has their own unique roles to play in the book and each makes their own unique contribution to the book. Laurie’s full name is Theodore Laurence, though most people call him “Laurie,” except for Jo as she calls him “Teddy.”
Laurie is a close friend of the entire March family, though he does admit to loving Jo, she rejects him. Later in the book, Laurie falls in love with Amy, and they become wedded and later have a child.
There is a lot of drama to unfold throughout these circumstances, which is why it is a very interesting read. There are many lessons we can learn from Little Women in connection to our Christian walk.
1. Family above All Else
A major theme through Little Women is that family comes above all else. As Christians, outside of God, our families need to take priority in our lives because God should always be our top priority. Even though the March family had difficulties at times, they always came back together as a family.
When Beth passes away, it places a strain on the family, yet they continue to push forward. Each of the March sisters honors their parents and never disrespects them. This is in agreement with the scriptures as God does call us to honor our mother and father (Exodus 20:12).
Our families are a major part of our lives, and we need to extend God’s love to each of them even when it is hard. The March family went through many tragedies over the course of the book; however, they always remained a united family.
2. Women Should Not Be Seen as Inferior
During the time of Alcott’s writing of Little Women, women were not treated equally as men. In the modern-day, women are still facing levels of inequality; however, it has improved to an extent since Alcott’s life. Jo goes against the status quo for women as she is strongly opposed to the idea of marriage.
Jo desires freedom to be her own person and not to be confined to only becoming a housewife for the duration of her life. Even though Jo turns down her childhood friend Laurie when he proposes to her, Jo does marry Friedrich Bhaer, who is an older professor she meets in New York at the boarding house.
Even as a wife, Jo is still her own independent person. Alcott originally wanted to keep Jo unmarried; however, the publisher would not publish her book unless the main female character either got married or died.
This is an important aspect to remember as women should not be defined as “incomplete” without getting married. Within Christian culture, there is a mega emphasis on getting married in order to fulfill the Christian walk. It is important to recognize that a Christian does not have to be married in order to be “complete.”
From the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are given fullness in Him (Colossians 2:10). While there is nothing wrong with getting married, it’s important that married couples do not look down on others who do not get married in their life. Just as Jo showed in her life, women can be happy as they are — happily unmarried.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Death
A third lesson from Little Women in reference to our Christian walk is the importance of not being afraid. In the book, Beth says, “I never wanted to go away, and the hard part now is leaving you all. I’m not afraid, but it seems as if I should be homesick for you even in heaven.”
Beth says this because she knows she is dying. Even though her family is afraid of her impending death, Beth is not afraid. In our own Christian walk, God does not want us to be afraid.
Isaiah 41:10 tells us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” In addition to God wanting us to live fearlessly, He also wants us to not be afraid of death. Death will befall all people because of sin in the world; however, we should not be afraid of death.
As Christians, we don’t need to be afraid of death because we know we will be with Christ when we die. Since we know this, we need to be encouraged and be brave. There is no reason to be afraid because God is always walking with us even through the valley of death (Psalm 23).
4. Forgiveness Is Always Right
A fourth lesson from Little Women is that forgiveness is always the right thing to do. Amy does an extremely wicked thing to Jo. Out of jealousy and spite, Amy burns Jo’s book. Amy had known that Jo’s book brought her the greatest joy, which is why Amy wanted to destroy it.
When Jo discovers that Amy has burned her book, she swears to Amy that she will never forgive her. For a while, Jo lives in anger and resentment towards Amy until Amy almost dies by falling through the ice while they are ice-skating.
After this happens, Jo comes to the realization that Amy is much more important than her book. In the same way, God calls us to forgive others even if they have wronged us. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
If you have a sibling who has done something bad to you, you know the pain and anger that can boil inside of you just as Jo felt towards Amy. Even though we can feel this way at times, God wants us to forgive those who hurt us.
In addition to forgiving them, God wants us to love them (John 15:12). This can be hard, but through prayer and help from God, we can forgive and love those who have hurt us.
5. Sometimes the Best Thing Is to Let Go
Letting go of anything can be hard in our lives. Whether that be letting go of a dream, a friendship, or a loved one who has passed away, it can be extremely difficult. While we may feel crestfallen when this happens, the best thing we can do is to let go.
In the events of Little Women, Laurie has to let go of Jo even though he loves her. When Jo turns Laurie down and tells him that she will never marry, in Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation, Laurie says, “You will care for somebody, and you'll love him tremendously, and live and die for him. I know you will, it's your way, and you will, and I'll watch.”
In our own lives, there will be many times when we have to let someone or something go in our lives. Just as it wasn’t easy for Laurie, it may not be easy for us. God can give us the comfort, peace, and love that even if people come and go in our lives, He will always stay by our side (Hebrews 13:5).
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.