This weekend director Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is up for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It is the seventh feature film to be made from Alcott’s book and perhaps the most distinctive. Unfortunately, the latest film leaves out an important theme from the original text: faith.
The previous six movies hewed more or less to Alcott’s strictly chronological narrative structure, which follows the four March sisters—Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy—from their teen years to their late 20s. Ms. Gerwig’s film instead offers a deconstructed version. The events in Alcott’s book are presented as flashbacks in a deliberately scrambled order that reflects not chronology but the thematic aims of Ms. Gerwig, who also wrote the screenplay.
By violating Alcott’s narrative structure Ms. Gerwig also undermines the writer’s framing of the story as a tale of moral growth in a world at odds with living a Christian life. In particular, Alcott tied her story through explicit references to “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” John Bunyan’s entertaining and hugely successful 17th-century allegory of the journey of a man named Christian—and later, his wife and sons—through the travails of this world to the Celestial City. Bearing the burdens of their sins, they encounter such colorful characters as Mr. Worldly Wiseman and Giant Despair, and pass through such traps for the soul as Vanity Fair, the Slough of Despond, and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Well into the 20th century “Pilgrim’s Progress” was, after the Bible, the most-read book in many Anglophone Protestant households.
In Alcott’s “Little Women” each of the March girls has besetting sins that she must overcome through constant striving.
Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” leaves out an important theme from the original text: faith, writes Charlotte Allen https://t.co/7V8USd5kCl
— Adam O’Neal (@AdamWSJ) February 7, 2020