If you have read my previous posts, you know that I absolutely adore Little Women. I was given the book as a present as a child and it is still one of my most treasured books in my bookshelf. When I was about 8 years old, I read the book a chapter at a time to my mom until we finished it. When we would go to the movie rental store (what… those used to exist?!?! I know..) I was only allowed to rent cartoons or other little kid movies but every once in a while, I would beg my parents to let me rent a “grown up movie” which basically translated into a movie with real people in it and when they said yes- I would get “Little Women”, the Wynonna Rider version w/ Claire Danes and Kirsten Dunst (oh and let’s not forget… Christian Bale as Laurie).
So why… oh why… was one of my favorite novels banned?
If you don’t know the story, all you need to know for this review is that there are 4 sisters and the main character, Jo (Josephine) is the tomboy/feminist of the group. When she refuses to marry Laurie (yes a boy), he marries her little sister Amy instead (the typical, accomplished female). So Jo goes through the book looking to make something of herself. She acts as a feminist in many ways but falls in love with a much older professor and they get married.
Sounds rather straight forward right? Nothing crazy or out of the ordinary there! Well… apparently, it was banned under the “gender issues” section of Banned Books because its treatment of a feminist is unfair. Because she challenged traditional gender roles and Alcott proved that just because Jo did not follow the traditional path as her sisters, Meg, Beth, and Amy, she still ends up married and happy at the end WITH a career. We, in the 21st century think this is nothing new, however, the 19th century certainly did and they had a BIG PROBLEM with it. Apparently, this was giving girls the wrong idea that they could possibly make their own choices in life. It was taking their minds off their duty to be wife/mother/homemaker and instead filling their minds with dreams of having a career and a husband (Impossible!)
So there you have it… another example of how a perfectly good novel (dare I say, GREAT novel?) is banned because it challenges society’s value system. I will be interested to see what books get banned this year that our children/grandchildren will look upon and scoff at the greatness that was missed out on by the general public.
Fun fact: Alcott never married and infamously, the novel is based on her life at home with her sisters. She said once,“…because I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man;” she never planned for Jo to marry within the book but so many girls wrote to her insisting she marry Jo off that she decided to humor them with the character of Professor Bhaer. Can you imagine the kind of backlash the book would have received if Jo had never married at all?
One of my favorite quotes from the novel: ‘With her eyes on her work, Jo answered soberly, “I want something new; I feel restless, and anxious to be seeing, doing, and learning more than I am. I brood too much over my own small affairs, and need stirring up, so, as I can be spared this winter, I’d like to hop a little way, and try my wings.”(337-338)