Wow. I really hated Little Women. Quite a bit of the plot revolves around romance, and I don’t enjoy romance when it’s the focus of the plot. But that’s not what really drove me nuts about this book. It was all the heavy-handed moral lessons. It was so simplistic. When the characters took action that was deemed morally good, they were rewarded almost immediately. When the characters took action that was deemed morally wrong, they were punished, with the exception of what happens to Beth.
There were several instances of the mother, teaching her daughters a lesson by allowing them to engage in behaviors that were unfavorable and magically the universe always instructed them perfectly. It was so patronizing. There are at least 6 instances of this sort of lesson-learning.
This would all be enough to make me hate this book. But there is more. One of the characters, Jo, seems to be based on Alcott herself. Alcott never married and once said that she thought she was born with the soul of a man because she had fallen in love with many pretty women but not one man. She did have one documented relationship with a man, but I think it’s safe to say she probably had some homo tendencies.
Jo, the character that eschews gender norms, gets married at the end of the book. It’s pretty remarkable that this character existed at all in 1868. It’s even more remarkable that this was accepted as a children’s book. Regardless, I would have preferred that Jo remained single at the end of the book just as Alcott did. That wouldn’t have been scandalous, but more true to the character. It also wouldn’t have made for a marketable happy ending.
My partner pointed out that perhaps this was the way Alcott wished that her life had gone. I know I spent a lot of my teens and twenties wishing that I wasn’t gay. I am sure that I am not alone in this; being outside the norm in this regard is isolating and much more so for those that are raised in intolerant or unaccepting environments.
I intellectually understand the argument that engaging in a homosexual relationship is a choice. It doesn’t resonate on an emotional level though. The canyon that exists between living authentically and living in the closet is vast. This brings me to the core of why I didn’t enjoy this book. It made that silent desperation that is living so close and yet so far from the bond that we all crave palpable and close.