Concord revisited with ‘Little Women’

Five years ago, I took a New England road trip with my cousin. It was a major endeavour for me coming from Western Canada, over 2,500 miles away. The photos here were taken during the road trip that fall. We began our drive across three States starting from Wayland, MA. Nearby Concord was our first point of interest. This is where Louisa May Alcott grew up and later transposed her real life family onto the page to write Little Women.

Thanks to writer/director Greta Gerwig’s adaptation, fond memories flash back as I watch the New England scenery captured so beautifully on screen. One of the memorable scenes is the panoramic autumn hillside in which Laurie made his failed attempt proposing to Jo. Another one was the Christmas morning breakfast give-away as Marmee led the girls to exercise love-in-action.

CONCORD, MA

A major attraction in Concord is Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. The Alcott family owned Orchard House from 1857 to 1884, within which period all four Alcott girls Anna, Louisa, Lizzie and May had their most influential growing up years. The house is now a museum:

Sign

The rooms and furniture, Louisa’s (Jo) writing desk, the costume and props the girls made for their plays, Anna’s (Meg) wedding gown, and all of May’s (Amy) original paintings on the walls of her room are preserved inside the Orchard House Museum:

The Orchard House Museum

Louisa transposed her family onto the page, creating parallel characters in the March household. In the Little Women Garden, the March sisters had their own flower bed, each planted their section according to their taste or maybe, character. Here’s from the quote on the sign indicating their choices:

Meg – roses and heliotrope, myrtle, and a little orange tree
Jo – never alike two seasons, for she was always trying experiments
Beth – old-fashioned fragrant flowers, sweet peas and mignonette, larkspur, pinks, pansies, southernwood, with chickweed for birds and catnip for the pussies.
Amy – honeysuckle and morning-glories hanging their colored horns and bells in graceful wreaths all over it, tall white lilies, delicate ferns, and as many brilliant, picturesque plants.

The Garden

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Here’s the issue many have questioned: Did Greta Gerwig alter the Little Women characters to appeal to modern day viewers, or, is she merely revealing Louisa May Alcott’s true image?

From Orchard House we went to visit the Concord Museum. Among plaques presenting some of Concord’s famous residents is this one of Louisa May Alcott. The quote on there comes from a letter Louisa wrote dated November 29, 1856:

I think I shall come out right, and prove that though an Alcott I can support myself. I like the independent feeling, and though not an easy life, it is a free one, and I enjoy it. I can’t do much with my hands; so I will make a battering-ram of my head and make a way through this rough-and-tumble world…

 

LMA

The Alcott parents, Bronson and Abigail were abolitionists and environmentalists. Bronson was the first teacher in Boston to admit a black student to his class despite protests from white parents who threatened either the black student go or they go. Bronson’s school was left with very few students consequently as he insisted his stance.

But his educational ideals must have been embraced by students as Bronson introduced the idea of raising their hands to speak in class, and he was the one who invented recess in school. There you go for a Jeopardy question.

Louisa’s mother Abigail was one of the first social workers in Boston, and was active in Women’s rights. She’d said, “I will go to the polls before I die if my daughters had to carry me there.”

The Alcott’s close friends and neighbours included prominent intellectuals and writers of the day: Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne. They made frequent, mutual visits, and had personal influence on Louisa’s formation and writing.

Down the road from the Alcott’s was Emerson’s home. Emerson had helped the financially strapped Bronson with acquiring Orchard House:

Emerson's Home

And living minimally by choice as an experiment, here’s Thoreau’s cabin (replica) at nearby Walden Pond:

thoreaus-cabin

 

Thoreau's Lake Side Cabin

Growing up under such stimulating milieu where thinkers and writers are free to explore new ideas and generate new philosophy, it was only natural that Louisa grew up grasping the values and the spirit of her parents and their friends, becoming a non-conformist herself.

Louisa had admitted she’s Jo in Little Women and added: “I didn’t make her half-bad enough.” If she’d been here today and directed the movie, I’ve a feeling she’d make Jo twice as radical and assertive. Gerwig is admirably restrained and for this, kudos to her.

 

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Related Posts on Ripple Effects:

Little Women (2019) movie review

Can a movie adaptation ever be as good as the book?

A New England Fall Foliage Road Trip

 

Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

19 thoughts on “Concord revisited with ‘Little Women’”

    1. The film adaptation just shows how sensitive and smart Gerwig is as a writer, and how brilliant she is as a director. Unfortunately the Oscars noms. only recognized the writing part. And, thanks for letting us know about your post. Interesting discussions there.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I was invited to attend the film yesterday and declined, for a variety of reasons, but now I’m eager to go. I think this time around I will read the book first. Can you believe I haven’t read it? I remember your trip, and what a pleasure it was for you. These photos are marvelous. I could live in Thoreau’s cabin!

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    1. Linda,

      My recent viewing of previous screen adaptations plus listening to the audiobook have helped me to appreciate and admire Louise May Alcott’s view and her novel. Greta Gerwig’s updated version is ingenious in bringing out Alcott’s free spirit in Jo as well as keeping the story and setting intact. She has breathed into a 19th C. classic with a modern air and yet still kept its authenticity. Almost like an oxymoron in a visual sense. I think you’ll enjoy this one, even without first reading the book (500 pages and lots of side stories.)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. They were selling a new paper edition of Little Women in the airport bookstores. I almost bought it! I love this post. Brings back a few memories for me, too (although the house was closed when I was there). Hoping to catch this one sometime this week!

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  3. I think I’m going to miss this movie unless I get a move on as it’s in its last days. Initially, I didn’t want to see it feeling I know the story and don’t need another version, but I’m starting to wish I’d more actively made time for it. I did visit Concord and the Alcott house – back in 1983. I loved it.

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    1. O, WG, if you’re familiar with the book and even visited the place, then you must see the film on the big screen. It’s a fresh and artistic take of the story, a joy and utterly gratifying experience that I wish you won’t let it pass by. If this will tell you how much I love it: I’ve seen it three times, so far. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was too young to notice how good the flower quote was when I was a child. But it’s so good, so funny. The humour around Jo really came across in the film.

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    1. Just shows how intelligent and talented the director is. Do check out her ‘third way’ (I called it so) approach in adapting Little Women. I look forward to Gerwig’s future works in both directing and acting.

      On another note, I recently read and reviewed the memoir Turning: A Year in the Water by Jessica J. Lee, whose mother is from Taiwan and dad from Wales, and who grew up in Canada but later as a young adult went to live in London and then to Berlin which this book is about. I think you’ll enjoy reading it. 🙂

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