It’s official: I’m a fictional character.
It is true, friends. I have somehow succeeded in modeling my life off of a fictional character. I first realized this in college, but the situation has grown steadily worse. I blame my mother for taking me to see the film when I was a child. It’s been one of my favorites ever since.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I’m Jo March.
And yes, I said “film.” To be exact, it was the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, and Christian “The Dark Knight” Bale. I read the book as a child and hated it, but I kept reading Louisa May Alcott’s writing because I was pretentious. I did enjoy Little Men, and I have reread Little Women since my childhood, and I can admit that it’s not as bad as I once thought.
But yes—this is one of the rare times where I preferred the film to the book. Blasphemy, I know. You can stone me later.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
The Commonalities of Jo March and Emily:
1. We’re writers.
2. We’re from close-knit families.
3. We have a love for theatre and have written our own plays and performed them.
4. It’s not that we’re anti-feminine—we just don’t like anyone telling us how to behave.
5. We can’t dance. (At least not the lady’s part.)
6. We’re in danger of becoming spinsters.
7. We’ve both been pretty shaken up at the loss of someone who was far too young to die.
8. Europe! My Europe!
9. We keep odd hours for writing.
Late at night my mind would come alive with voices and stories and friends as dear to me as any in the real world. I gave myself up to it, longing for transformation.
10. Ink permanently stains our fingers.
11. We’re bossy to our siblings, even though our siblings have a better grasp on life than we do.
12. We have pastors for fathers.
13. We feel like misfits, even though we probably really aren’t.
14. We’re talented, and we know it, but some days we need our mothers to remind us of this.
15. We do really stupid things when boys like us. Like turn them down when they’re obviously perfect for us.
16. We’ve spent a lot of our time around our elderly relatives.
17. We’re teachers.
18. We martyr our vanities for our loved ones.
19. People are constantly telling us to write what we know, but we seem determined to write melodramatic murder mysteries and romances.
20. We can be insecure. Terribly insecure. And we deal with this by making drastic decisions.
21. We’re dreamers.
22. We’re hard workers.
23. We love to learn.
24. We should have been lawyers. We should have been a great many things.
25. We run away to exotic cities like New York.
I felt bold on leaving Concord, but I confess I find New York rough and strange, and myself strange in it.
Sitting in the Byrd Theatre in Richmond, VA, in 1994, I remember watching this story play out and being completely spellbound. Jo was my hero.
(I was also in love with Laurie, but come on, what girl wasn’t?)
I didn’t intentionally set out to become Jo March. In fact, even though I’ve watched the film so many times I have it memorized, it took me awhile to realize what I had done to myself. There’s a scene just after Jo has rejected Laurie’s proposal, and Amy’s going to Europe with Aunt March, and Jo goes to Marmee and vents all her anger and frustration. I watched that scene and thought, Christopher Columbus! I look and sound just like that every single time I call my mother and have a meltdown.
It took me several days before I realized that I was okay with being Jo March. I mean, it could have been worse—I could have become boring Meg. Amy was more interesting than Meg—heck, Beth was more interesting than Meg.
This morning, as I sat in Starbucks and tried to write, I was once again struck by the similarities in my life and Jo’s. It’s rather comforting. Jo turned out all right. She was happy, loved, and published. She had a purpose in the world.
I can have all that, too, right?
(Yes, I know she’s fictional. I’m not crazy. I’m just a writer.)
Wouldn’t it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could come true, and we could live in them?” said Jo, after a little pause…
“You’d have nothing but horses, inkstands, and novels in yours,” answered Meg petulantly.
“Wouldn’t I though? I’d have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled high with books, and I’d write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie’s music. I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle, something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous, that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.”
– Little Women, Part One: Chapter Thirteen “Castles in the Air”
Are there any fictional characters you’ve modeled yourselves after? Or am I just odd?