July 27, 2021

Each era has its ‘Little Women’ | Culture

Emma Watson (first from left), Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen, in the ‘Little Women’ by Greta Gerwig.

Louisa May Alcott was 35 years old when, through her father, the transcendentalist Bronson Alcott, was commissioned to write a “girls story”. Roberts Brothers, the label in charge of it, was aware of his “literary ability” – around 1865, Alcott had published several thrillersunder a pseudonym — and he wanted me to make it available for a greater purpose: “train women” by bridging “the classroom and the classroom,” advising “submission, marriage and obedience, rather than autonomy and adventure,” as he says Elaine Showalter in her prologue to the Penguin Classics edition. Alcott accepted and ended up writing a classic about the opposite.

Since its publication in 1868, Little Women He has been telling reading girls that there is no single way to be a woman, and that they can dream of escaping everything that is expected of them. Its enormous influence on popular culture has not declined since then, as evidenced by the avalanche of publications that caused its 150th anniversary in 2018, and the premiere of a new film version (which adds to three famous previous adaptations), directed by which maybe she is the most principal cool of the moment, Greta Gerwig, which offers a (new) feminist twist to the story of the four March sisters, told by Jo, the aspiring writer-writer.

'Little Women' in the first version for the cinema, directed by George Cukor in 1933.

‘Little Women’ in the first version for the cinema, directed by George Cukor in 1933.

“Alcott was, without knowing it, one of the first feminists in history. He defended not only his right not to marry, earn a living alone and discover and cultivate his self, but, through Little women, He encouraged us all to do it, ”explains Anne Boyd Rioux, author of The Legacy of Little Women (Ampersand), an essay on the Alcott classic, in which, in addition to establishing a tour of the backstage of its creation, sheds light on some of its shadows. The main? Jo’s wedding, an ending that didn’t seem to match up to such an independent character. “Alcott was not allowed to write the ending he had in mind for Jo, in which his protagonist ended up like her: a spinster dedicated entirely to literature. But her followers and her editor insisted that they should all get married, and hence everything would end, as she herself said: “In such a stupid way.” Nevertheless, he tried to subvert expectations by marrying Professor Bhaer and putting her at the head of the Plumfield school, giving an equal vision of marriage that could be considered feminist, ”says Rioux.

Thinkers Inspiration

Married or not, Jo’s character has inspired countless artists and thinkers. It has made them, in some sense, since girls, in themselves. It changed the life of Patti smith when she was more than “a dreamy skinny girl of 10 years”, and also that of the respected thinker of feminism Simone de Beauvoir. Writers like Joyce Carol Oates and Jeanette Winterson have also admitted that Little women,perhaps the most cited title in the interview-supplement questionnaire Babelia When asked “What book made you want to be a writer?”, he invited you to draw your own path. “Until I read it, I was not aware that the novels I liked so much had an author, and that author could be a girl. I remember then we lived in Palma de Mallorca. I was nine years old. Jo March wrote stories and I wanted to do it too. That’s when it all started, ”he recalls Elvira Lindo, that never, he says, can judge Little Women literaryly “When something marks you in childhood, your criteria can never be solely literary.”

The Technicolor comes to 'Little Women' with the 1949 version of Mervyn LeRoy.

enlarge photo
The Technicolor comes to ‘Little Women’ with the 1949 version of Mervyn LeRoy.

And if Lindo discovered that he could write because Jo did it, the writer also Lucia Lijtmaer, born in the late seventies and already belonging to a generation that had hundreds of other role models, she learned, by Little women, that intellectual life implied precariousness. “It is Jo who is always interpreted as a hero for seeking a destiny in writing but for me it really worked as a warning: the room itself has a cost, material and immaterial. And many times a punishment. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a good memory of the book, ”he says. Lijtmaer, like Lindo, read it, “with fascination” at age nine, as did Maria Fasce, editor of Lumen, a stamp that has the classic in its catalog. Remember to have felt “a violent desire” to be Jo, and that desire may remain the same as long as “the book is still new”, something that happens “if there are readers who have not yet discovered it, as I said [el editor] Peter Meyer. “

The center of the story

“It’s true, each era has its Little Women, ” Anne Boyd Rioux ruling. “Each era takes those ideas that it seems appropriate to explore.” Hence, for example, in the adaptations of the thirties and forties, “the interest in Amy’s art and Jo’s writing is hardly mentioned, and love is the center of the story,” and that it is not until after the feminist hatching of the seventies that “Jo is shown to us as a rebel and is taken seriously to behave like a boy.” In the 1994 adaptation, “it is intended that everyone be happy, conservatives and feminism.” “Gerwig has focused on the figure of the woman artist, on her self as a creator and on all the contradictions that that I must face,” adds Rioux.

'Little Women,' by Gillian Armstrong, 1994.

‘Little Women,’ by Gillian Armstrong, 1994.

“Little Women is in the genealogy that tries to build an epic of the intimate ”, agrees Marta Sanz The writer believes that it highlights “the contradictions and contractures that, because of the education received, we live very diverse women, who struggle to get out of stereotypes.” Sanz, who did not approach the novel until she was already an adult woman because “her canonical and masculine readings” had relegated the classic by considering it, from that prism, “stale and cheesy,” encourages “rethinking the book from a dimension in which we overcome stereotypes, resignify words, rehabilitate polisons and kitchens, and at the same time, we do not want our differences to become disadvantages in the public space ”. Because, he says, “literature not only represents reality, it also builds it, and that is one of the reasons why it would be good to reread Little Women in a critical sense: we would be rereading ourselves. ”


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