Post CEFR level: B1/B2

Little Women (1868), written by Louisa May Alcott, follows the lives of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March as they grow up during the American Civil War. It is one of America’s best loved stories and has been adapted many times for the cinema, TV and theatre. In 2019, a new film version, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, added some new ideas to the original and was nominated for 6 Oscars.

Little Women is a semi-autobiographical novel and parallels many events in the life of its author, Louisa May Alcott and her three sisters. Like the character of Jo, Alcott is interested in writing, feminism and politics. This new version emphasises Jo’s love for writing and suggests that the novel she is writing during the course of the film is Little Women itself. At the beginning we see a copy of the novel with Alcott’s name on it but by the end the name has changed to Jo’s; again suggesting a parallel between the character and the author.

While the new film version is faithful to the original story, it doesn’t present events in linear fashion like the book does. It jumps backwards and forwards in time, showing the sisters both as teenagers and adults. This highlights the way childhood events and emotions influence their later lives and how their characters develop. The director has added scenes and dialogues which bring the story to life, adding passion, humour and irony to the original. One iconic example can be seen in the character of Aunt March, played by Meryl Streep.  In the book she is a background figure but in the film version she has a much stronger, often comic, role.

Apart from these major changes to the structure of the film, Gerwig’s narrative emphasises the scenes which show the four sisters as strong, determined women. However, she never strays too far from the original plot so fans of the story won’t be disappointed when they see it. With the help of actresses like Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Meryl Streep, the 2019 adaptation presents a fresh twist on a well-loved, classic tale.

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