Little Women: Jo´s journey as a writer

Niina Pekantytär

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Little Women is a Bildungsroman. Bildungsroman is a literal genre that originates from Germany. English translation could be a “coming of age” novel.

The focus of a Bildungsroman is on the moral and psychological development of the character.

In movies and in all tv adaptations so far, scene, where Fritz expressed his opinions about sensational literature, has been turned into a conflict. I guess it is supposed to create more drama, but this is not the way things go in the book because Jo has already labelled her sensational writings as “rubbish”.
Way before she even thinks of travelling to New York. She has assured herself that her intentions are good because she would use the money to help her family. This inner conflict that Jo has begins in chapter 27. Literally lessons.

In this chapter, Jo attends a lecture about pyramids. There she bumps into a young man who is reading a thrilling story written by Mrs Nordbury.

Jo is amused by the boy's admiration of the “trash” that is how Jo calls this type of literature which emphasizes her wish to detach herself from those stories. So Jo´s negative views towards sensational stories are clearly identified. When Jo hears how much Mrs Nordbury makes with her Stress and Thunder tales Jo begins to change her mind and soon starts to write them herself.

Stress and Thunder tales originate from Goethe. In German, this genre is called “Sturm und Drang”. It sounds way cooler in German. Drang refers to deep emotional stress. Sturm und Drang was a movement in literature and music in late 18th century Germany and was largely influenced by Goethe´s writings and plays. There is a great emphasis on the faith of the individual and the movement was highly influenced by Shakespeare. Goethe´s Sturm und Drang plays were about very masculine Teutonic heroes which is probably what fascinated Louisa as an author. Jo´s first stories are poor attempts to capture the spirit of Sturm und Drang.

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“Her story was full of desperation and despair as her limited acquaintance of those uncomfortable emotions enabled her to make it. Jo takes into consideration all the advice she gets from everyone around her instead of seeking advice from someone who could help her to improve as a writer. She goes against her own judgement when she knows that some of the advice she receives does not improve the story.

“So with Spartan firmness, the young authoress laid her first-born on the table and chopped it up as ruthlessly as any ogre. In the hope of pleasing everyone she took everyone advice and like the old man and his donkey in the fable, it suited nobody. After submitting to a bunch of magazines

Jo writes her first novel, which is a romance and it receives mixed reviews. Jo appreciates the feedback and learns from it.

“Her family and friends, administered, comfort and accommodation liberally, yet it was a hard time for sensitive high-spirited Jo, who meant so well and had apparently done so ill but it did her good, for those whose opinions had real value, gave her criticism which is author´s best education and when the first sourness was over, she could laugh at the poor little book, yet believe in it still, and feel herself yet wiser and stronger for the buffeting she had received”.

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Folklorist and historian. Alcott essayist. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

Finland, MN
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