There’s a lot to love in Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic, Little Women. The film boasts a stunning score by Alexandre Desplat, breathtaking cinematography, and a star-studded cast including Emma Watson, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, and Saoirse Ronan. But by taking Alcott’s heartwarming story to “new feminist heights,” Gerwig has abandoned some of the critical themes that made the original 1868 novel so important, and timeless.
These messages cannot be glossed over or forgotten if women today want to remain true to what Alcott was trying to convey with her landmark work.
Little Women is the story of the four March sisters—motherly Meg, independent Jo, selfless Beth, and artistic Amy— and their heartaches, joys, triumphs and failures as they grow up against the backdrop of the American Civil War. In Gerwig’s adaptation, it’s the strength of the March sisters that takes center stage: their wit, their independence, and their determination to succeed against all odds. But Alcott’s novel reveals that the true source of the sisters endurance and stamina was their faith in God.
In one of the novel’s earliest scenes, mother Marmee gifts her girls copies of the Bible. She draws an analogy to the book Pilgrim’s Progress, telling her daughters that just like the characters in the book, they each have their own burdens, or their own weaknesses, to overcome. She explains that the Bible will be their guidebook for navigating life’s difficult journey, and that God will be their friend whom they can look to for joy, consolation, and power.