When I first started reading Little Women, I didn’t expect to fall in love with Jo so much. I certainly didn’t plan on her becoming one of my favourite literary characters ever, along with Cathy Earnshaw and Elizabeth Bennet. The moment when I realised how much I’m going to like Jo was during the first part of the novel; she wrote a play for her sisters to act out on Christmas Day - I used to boss my sisters around when I was little as we put on performances for our parents, so it was undoubtedly a relatable scene!
So after that, my admiration for Jo continued to grow as the novel went on. Here are a few reasons why she is the best little woman, and certainly an unforgettable character.
One thing that I love about Jo is her determination. She’s determined to help her mother see her husband when he falls ill at war, so she shaves her hair off to sell it (even if it was not needed.) She is determined to see her novels published so she can send money home for ailing Beth. But that’s not the only reason why she writes. When reading the book, you can see her dedication to her stories, keeping herself away in her little corner of the attic, wearing her specific writers’ clothing (more on this later).
When she sets her mind to something, no can stop her from doing it.
Throughout the novel, Jo often wished that she ‘was a boy’ and would swear, whistle, ruffle her skirts. She’s blunt and opinionated and can be clumsy, as shown by her setting her dress on fire while warming herself up. She struggles to remain within the domestic sphere, feeling angry when she can’t fight in the Civil War alongside her father.
One of my favourite scenes from the novel is when she and Amy call upon their neighbours, and Jo purposely shocks Amy with her erratic behaviour. Jo hates making calls (customary for women at the time) and so decides to have a bit of fun. When Amy tells her to be ‘calm, cool, and quiet,’ she says no more than a few words at a time. When Amy said she should speak more with the ladies, Jo is over the top and silly. Amy stops caring what Jo does, so she goes and plays with the boys, making a mess of her best dress. I found the whole scene hilarious as it’s Jo’s way of rebelling against the high-class, feminine tradition of making calls. She refuses to fit in and act a certain way - and if that means causing a scene, then she shall create a scene.
Majority of the time, when you ask someone who your favourite character from Little Women is, the answer will be Jo. So I think that that’s because she is so ahead of her time, and so we can relate to her more.
As mentioned earlier, she doesn’t attempt to fit in with society’s rules for women; she instead embodies a strong, different type of femininity that I think applies to today’s gender ‘roles.’ She’s independent, chases her dreams and continuously works to better her talents. She accepts who she is, instead of whom the world wants her to be, and allows herself to grow and move forward, realising that she does love Bhaer.
She was considered to be imperfect because she was not a stereotypical woman, and that’s why she is a loved character. Her unladylike ways are flaws to her, and there are times throughout the novel when she is unhappy that she is not the proper lady. However, she accepts these ‘flaws’ and continues to do what she believes she needs to do. You just can’t help but be inspired by her.
She’s a writer
As a writer, I couldn’t write this post without including Jo’s literary talents. My favourite parts of Little Women are the scenes where Jo puts on her ‘scribbling suit’ and gets to work, isolating herself for hours.
What I love is the significance of writing for Jo - it plays such a massive part of her life. Her skills develop through the book as she regularly devotes her time to her craft, in her own private writing space, something that I wish I could have!
Writing is also a necessary act for Jo in a way. She’s a fiery character with lots of energy, and writing helps her release that energy and produce something that becomes extremely successful. It was also her way of letting go of her struggles, such as losing Meg to Jon, or the pressures of society to become the women she despises or Beth’s death. Her emotions are expressed through her words - I remember almost crying at the poem she wrote about her sisters and herself towards the end of the novel.
It is partly through her writing that Jo learns to be herself. When Jo tried to live as Beth did, Jo was not herself. Her mother persuaded her to write something, anything, it led to Jo’s writing success, and her creative energy that everyone adored returned.