This past week I saw the movie, Little Women, and found it to be truly heart-opening in a sweet and gentle way.
As many of you are probably aware, the movie is an adaptation of the famous semi-autographical novel of the same name written by Louisa May Alcott in 1868. The movie portrays the four March sisters- Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy- as they each struggle to carve out an identity amidst economic and social constraints in the years spanning and immediately following the American Civil War. The movie beautifully portrays the challenges of sisterhood- the sibling rivalry that can threaten to separate along with the fierce bond of love that ultimately unites.
During this time, there was no independent way for a woman to financially support herself or her family. She relied on her parents and then her husband for economic support. Even if she had money of her own, once she married it belonged to her husband, and even her children would become the property of her husband. In the movie, Amy March categorically states that for a woman, marriage is certainly an “economic preposition.” Meg and Amy accept this and aspire to marry in a way that honors themselves in the context of prevailing social limitations.
In contrast, Jo March does her best to rebel against these societal norms. Jo is a tomboy, regrets that she was born a girl, and wishes she could enlist in the army and support her dad who is away serving as a pastor in the Civil War. Jo is not interested in boys or marriage but is passionate about writing, staying up many sleepless nights creating plays and stories. Perhaps her biggest fan is her younger ailing sister, Beth, who ultimately inspires her to write a novel based on their life experiences. In real life, Louisa May Alcott never married and wrote stories to support herself and her family.
The portrayal of Jo as a writer deeply inspired me. Her devotion to her craft – writing by candlelight, fingers smudged by ink, really hit home. It takes a lot of work, dedication, and commitment to write a book! In the final scenes, Jo eagerly looks on at her book being put together, word by word with the block letters of the old-fashioned printing press, then sewn together page by page, and bound with fabric, and finally imprinted with the title and her name. 🙂
Jo is like a new mother watching from the hospital nursery window as her baby is lovingly cradled, dressed, and prepared for a proper viewing. When she clutches her book to her heart, we witness a moment that is quiet yet revolutionary. We celebrate this magnificent accomplishment that did not come from anything outside. Rather, it was born from Jo reaching deep within herself, sharing her struggles and that of her sisters honestly and with transparency. Not surprisingly, her book is widely successful because often the best writing is deeply intimate and thus becomes profoundly universal.
I feel a special bond with this whole process of book writing and printing when I am also just emerging from that space of creating my own book, Physician, Heal Thyself: A Doctor’s Journey from Medicine to Miracles.
Granted the tools available to me were very different than that for Jo! Instead of ink, candlelight, and printing press, I used computers, internet, adobe book layout software, and video conferencing to work with my book and cover layout designers. Yet the devotion to the art of writing is the same. It was such a joy to see this movie showcase writing- which often is such an inner process- in such a tangible and visible way.
I would encourage you to consider watching Little Women which is still playing in cinemas as of this writing and was nominated for several Academy Awards.