There are so many groups of characters, sisters out there that when watching a film, you are inclined to ask who you see yourself as. Are you a Donna, Tanya or a Rosie? Are you a Rachel, Phoebe or Monica? In the case of Louisa May Alcott’s classic story Little Women: are you a Jo, Meg, Beth or an Amy? I think the natural response is the desire to be Jo March because we can all admire her independence, rebelliousness, and literary prowess. On the other hand, no one wants to be Amy, whether it’s because of her childish naivety or the hatred towards her one mistake in childhood that has made readers hate her for more than 150 years.
In an interview for Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version of Little Women, Florence Pugh was asked how she felt about playing the classic tale’s villain. She responded that she set out to give the character a newer, brighter image because she has been misunderstood for years. When people hear Amy March, they think selfish, quite often bratty and impressionable as she is the one who first burns Jo’s manuscript and in one of the biggest upsets of literature history, she ends up marrying Laurie, both of which paint her as the antagonised from the get-go but thanks to a layered and incredibly moving performance from Pugh we see Amy as a young, ambitious woman who grows from that persistent little sister to a determined and empathetic young woman. In turn, I would argue out of the four sisters, it is, in fact, Jo and Amy believed to be polar opposites that are, in fact, the most similar.
First, let’s look to the scene from the movie where Amy announcing loud and proud, “I want to an artist in Rome and be the best painter in the world,” to which Beth asks Jo isn’t that what she wants too to be a famous writer as Jo simply responds that “but it sounds so crass when she says it”. Everyone around Amy continually brushes her off from childhood right through to adulthood like a spoiled boaster with no sense of reality around her. However, I do think this is where she and Jo connect the most. They are both just as artistic in their own way and, in turn, are just as stubborn about achieving it. When she later talks to Laurie in Paris, she declares that she either wants to be “great or nothing,” a lovely little nod to another line from Alcott’s original text, “The world is hard on ambitious girls”.
What needs to be noted is the pressure that quickly falls upon Amy from Aunt March. Aunt March feels a deep need to make sure the family is provided for after she is gone. She first puts pressure on Meg, then Jo the need to marry well to a husband who can provide for their family. When Jo happily ignores her, all that pressure of saving the family falls upon Amy’s head and indeed uneasy is the head that wears the crown. She has no choice but to marry, but even then, she doesn’t end up marrying some wealthy man whom she doesn’t love. She turns down the proposal and marries Laurie instead (and Greta Gerwig does a great job of showing her young crush on lourie right off the beginning), so this time I understand how well they are suited, more so than Laurie would have been with Jo (Unpopular opinion but I stand by it).
Anyone who watched the new adaptation will remember the speech she gives to Laurie as she talks about the realities of having to be a woman in her time, knowing that she will never be able to make enough money to support her family on her own. She knows that once she marries anything, she has will become her husbands; the children they have will become his, not hers. She is a strong woman who grows from her childish ways and becomes so sure of herself and the world she lives in, as we see at the end of the film when Jo asks her when she became so wise to which Amy quickly reminds her that she always had and that Jo has simply been “too busy noticing my faults.”
As I like to deem myself a writer, I do always want to see myself as Jo March because she is, in her own right, one of my literary heroes. However, I can proudly say that I feel no shame in recognising parts of myself in Amy, particularly in her flair for the dramatics. She, like her sister, is another example of a powerful female character, and I am so thankful that she is finally getting the credit she deserves.