The Paradox of Jo March

Jo March.

She's the second oldest sister in Louisa May Alcott’s novel, “Little Women”, and my personal favorite character. I believe Jo is the most dynamic character in the novel and carries so much depth to her personality. To the one that is just passing by though, there may not seem to be much to Jo. However, to the one that enters the depths of Jo’s heart, will find a sea of knowledge, ambition, charisma, dreams, and love, just to name a few.

Jo has a hard exterior, but a warm interior. She is a woman who knows want she wants and will not let anyone, especially society stand in her way. An ambitious writer, she is known to be up all night writing and dreaming of moving to New York to become a writer. She is filled with passion and it is easy to see how that drives her forward. In the most recent adapted screen play of the novel, directed by Greta Gerwig, Jo is played by Saoirse Ronan. In one particular scene, where Jo is in the attic with her mother (played by Laura Dern), she is weeping about how she feels about women and where that brings her today.

Jo says through her tears,

“I just, I just feel like. I just feel like, women. They have minds and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition and they’ve got talent. As well as just beauty. Am I’m so sick of people saying that love is all that a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it! But I’m, I’m so lonely.”

This one scene brings me to tears every time I watch it or think about it. Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan beautifully captured what I believe everyone woman feels…whether they admit it or not. Knowledge, ambition, talent, feelings, and heart are inside every woman. However, society tells us that love, specifically marriage, is the most important. Love is the end all be all for women. Marriage is the end all be all for women. I see this all around me and it is the main topic of most conversations. I personally experience this around fellow Christian's and the elevated idea of what marriage is supposed to be and how Christian women are supposed to be in a marriage.

But what is truly inside each woman?

I look around and see the underlying comparison, competition, and expectations for Christian’s in marriage. Sometimes it can come across like marriage is a game that is won by entering into it before others around you do. And following a set of rules leading up to marriage and inside a marriage makes the mark for the best wife. When did love become something to win rather than something that is chosen?

Seeing Jo March push against these walls put up for women by society and then choose love for herself is the most powerful and beautiful act I can imagine.

It takes risk and exposure to be who we truly are and to be different from the person next to us, especially when we are told to stay in a certain box. But how much more free and beautiful and life giving would our communities be if we all refused to be put in a box?

Being someone who relates immensely to Jo, I hope I have the power to act in the ways she does. Even in love, she never abandons who she is and the dreams and ambition she has. There are many sides to her and she owns them all. She is fierce and caring. Powerful and compassionate. She lets her passions inspire her and does not compromise herself to make others around her more comfortable. Yet, it takes certain people to truly see who she is and appreciate her for these characteristics and this dynamic person that she is.

Jo refused to be defined by society’s standards and that in and of itself, freed the people around her to do the same. It is through being who we are that other people are able to seek who they are. When stepping into this power, there is going to be push back. We see this with Jo in many circumstances, but what is passion without push back?

Similar to Jo, I feel misunderstood by people at times. But Jo put words and visuals to how I feel and someone who I hope to be. Someone who runs after my ambition and passions, but has the courage to recognize and speak about my loneliness and my love.