At first, during my initial read, I only saw the hardship the March’s were going through and concentrated on the most shallow layer of the plot: their journey towards a happy ever-after. But every read after that has opened up so many under currents that elevate the book to an entirely new plane.
Alcott has chosen to keep the most valuable factor in the plot simple. The honest and sincere affection that binds every character in the book transcends era or age. The emotions that line the plot are so human and genuine, that they defy the period the book was actually written in. There isn’t a shred of the cold withdrawal that is typical of British life. Life and love pour like a fountain and the reader just flows along. Courage, determination, the spirit that the family displays in times of hardship; and the hope which carries them through, are relevant even in the current times, despite the dramatic change in the nature of the hardships. Individual strength or collective courage, the March’s have it all.
The strength of the characters come from the fact that Alcott has drawn them out so wholesomely that anyone who takes the time to read a little into them wants to be one of them, and yearns for a family like that. The loving Mrs. March; Meg, who overcomes being plain and simply endears herself; the vivacious Jo whose exuberance just cannot be contained, the quiet artist Beth and little Amy: the characters are so alive and real that they almost speak to you. You want to help Meg with work, run your hand through Jo’s hair and catch up with Laurie over coffee. You want to sing with Beth and laugh away with Amy and endure all their tough times , with them. The chief characters, especially Jo, simply cast a spell.
The plot traces the journey of the March family through financial difficulties while they support each other and see happiness and hope in everyday aspects of life. Mrs. March stands as the rope that binds them together and encourages each of them to spread wings and find their calling. Letters from Mr. March inspires them , though he is absent for most part. Invaluable support, loyal friendship and much laughter comes in the form of Laurie and his youthfulness. We see Meg get married and have a set of twins; Jo become a writer and find love; Amy taking to painting and all the girls coming back home to Mrs. March, smiling, happy and accomplished.
This book has a special appeal for the women that have sisters, and share a special bond with them. It makes a splendid late night read, even if just a few chapters. You don’t go “aww”. Instead you search your soul for similar faith and to hope for the sunshine behind the clouds.
I must mention the movie here. Splendid performance from the cast, especially Winona Ryder (Jo), Susan Sarandon (Mrs. March) and Christian Bale (Laurie). If you felt the need to give a face to the characters, these people do the job exceedingly well.
Also, for those that don’t know, the book ‘Jo’s Boys’ , takes off from here and is quite a read too.