Why Little Women Still Matters, More Than 150 Years Later

Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen in Greta Gerwig's Little Women (2019).
Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen in Greta Gerwig's Little Women (2019).
Wilson Webb / © 2019 CTMG, Inc.

In 1868, Louisa May Alcott published the first part of Little Women, which would become her most famous novel (though it took her less than two months to write it). Today, more than 150 years later, Oscar-nominated director Greta Gerwig is already generating awards buzz for her new adaptation of Alcott's novel, which stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, and Timothée Chalamet.

The film, of course, comes less than a year after the BBC adapted the story into a miniseries (for the fourth time), which ran as part of PBS's Masterpiece series in the spring of 2018. These two projects are just the latest celebrations of the beloved novel, which has been adapted more than two dozens times—not only for film and television, but as stage plays, musicals, an opera, a radio drama, and even a Japanese anime series. All of which begs the question: Why, after all this time, do we continue to return to a coming-of-age story based on four sisters who grew up in the 19th century?

One reason is because the book is written with such natural dialogue that, even today, it remains realistic in its portrayal of womanhood (not just girlhood). Women in the World posits that Alcott’s real life—she and her family lived in poverty; she and her family moved 30 times in 22 years; she was a writer when women weren’t encouraged to write; she was sexually harassed—translated into universally relatable content that has managed to transcend the decades. Especially as it's written with what many deem to be an undeniable feminist bent.

In real life, Alcott never married, but as a writer she was ultimately forced to marry all the March sisters off. In Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, author Anne Boyd Rioux suggests that one of the reasons Little Women has endured is because the book isn't just a sentimental and sweet novel, but also a book about female rage.

In discussing Rioux's book in The New Republic, Sarah Blackwood wrote:

"Bronson Alcott’s strict adherence to his 'ideals'—vegetarianism, selflessness, and political commitments to use no cotton, wool, sugar, molasses, or rice—meant that his children were often improperly clothed and malnourished. He once left his wife Abigail alone with two small children so that he could focus on his studies for a year, during which Abigail weathered the first of many miscarriages on her own. Lizzie Alcott (the inspiration for the saintly Beth March) appears to have starved herself to death; her mother and sisters attended her during a protracted, painful, and utterly irredeemable death. Alcott was always keenly aware of how much she had to temper and redirect her own ambitions simply because she was a woman."

The article goes on to suggest that "Little Women has endured because of the power of its ‘lessons’ about balancing family and career, individualism and selflessness, and the value of (truly) companionate marriage." Yet it doesn't shy away from how these values can often create contradictions in one's life.

“The homes [Alcott] depicts are both cozy and claustrophobic, the marriages companionate and perverse, and the March girls’ dreams both fulfilled and depressingly renounced," Blackwood wrote. Yet, 150 years later, Alcott’s experiences in deciding whether or not to marry, and how to navigate what was clearly a man's world as a woman remain painfully relatable to today's artists and audiences.

For Gerwig, who became the first female filmmaker to earn a Best Director Oscar nomination for her debut feature with 2017's semi-autobiographical Lady Bird, her upcoming Little Women adaptation may be even more personal. "This feels like autobiography,” Gerwig told Vanity Fair. "When you live through a book, it almost becomes the landscape of your inner life ... It becomes part of you, in a profound way."

Millions of the book's fans would agree.

The 10 Best Stephen King Movies and TV Shows You Can Stream Right Now

A still from In the Tall Grass (2019).
A still from In the Tall Grass (2019).
CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS/Netflix

In 2017 Andy Muschietti's It—an adaptation of horror legend Stephen King’s 1986 novel—became the highest-grossing horror film of all time. It was a fitting badge of honor for King, the prolific horror novelist who has seen many of his books and stories transferred to film, often with only mixed success.

Fortunately, there's still plenty of King-inspired material that lives up to his name. Take a look at 10 movies and television shows currently streaming that capture the essence of King’s work.

1. Carrie (1976)

The first Hollywood adaptation of King’s work—from his very first novel published in 1974—is drenched in dread. As high school wallflower Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) struggles with an overbearing mother and vindictive mean-girl classmates, her latent telekinetic powers begin bubbling to the surface. When she's pushed too far, Carrie delivers a prom night no one will soon forget.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime

2. Creepshow 2 (1987)

A macabre King vibe inspired this anthology, a sequel to 1982's Creepshow that the writer collaborated on with horror master George A. Romero. The standout: "The Raft," about a group of college kids who find a sentient sludge at a lake that makes their weekend getaway anything but relaxing.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime

3. 11.22.63 (2016)

King’s revisionist take on the Kennedy assassination comes to life in this Hulu original series. James Franco stars as a professor who discovers he can travel back in time to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting at the motorcade in Dallas. Unfortunately, those heroics have consequences in the future.

Where to stream it: Hulu

4. Gerald’s Game (2017)

Carla Gugino’s weekend getaway with her husband turns into an endurance test when she finds herself alone and handcuffed to a bed. Slowly, creeping horrors both real and imagined begin to materialize. To keep her sanity—and her life—she’ll need to escape by any means necessary.

Where to stream it: Netflix

5. In the Tall Grass (2019)

King's 2012 novella—co-written with his son, Joe Hill—is a classic King conceit of taking the mundane and making it terrifying. After chasing a boy into a thick patch of farm land grass, two siblings realize that it harbors dangerous and mystifying entities. Patrick Wilson co-stars.

Where to stream it: Netflix

6. Christine (1983)

In what may be some kind of record, this 1983 adaptation of the King novel was released the same year as its source material. Teenage outcast Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) buys a 1958 Plymouth Fury, a car that appears to have its own plans for Arnie and the high school bullies taunting him.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime for $3.99

7. The Shining (1980)

Widely regarded as the best King adaptation of all time, this Stanley Kubrick film is actually not all that well-liked by King himself: He felt it failed to capture key elements of his 1977 novel (in 1997, King remade it as a miniseries starring Steven Weber). But it’s an undeniably rich and evocative horror show, with writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) slowly becoming unwound as he and his family settle in for an isolated winter at the Overlook Hotel.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime for $3.99

8. The Mist (2007)

King's 1980 novella casts a group of strangers who are trapped in a grocery store, a malevolent mist outside seemingly obscuring monstrous predators. As their peril increases, the danger inside becomes just as threatening. The ending, changed from King's own, remains one of the biggest gut-punch twists in film.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime for $3.99

9. Mr. Mercedes (2017-Present)

King’s Bill Hodges detective novel series, which began with 2014’s Mr. Mercedes, came to the Audience Network in 2017. The series stars Brendan Gleeson as Hodges, now retired but still obsessed with solving the case of a man who plowed into a group of people while driving a Mercedes. The offender takes to communicating with Hodges, igniting a taunting cat-and-mouse game that will have consequences for both men.

Where to stream it: Audience Network via AT&T Watch TV

10. The Dead Zone (1983)

Christopher Walken has the weight of the world on his shoulders as Johnny Smith, a teacher who emerges from a coma with psychic powers. When he encounters a power-mad politician (Martin Sheen) with destructive tendencies, Johnny must decide whether to take drastic action. King's 1979 novel also inspired a USA Network television series starring Anthony Michael Hall, which is available on Amazon Prime.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime for $3.99

Spending a Lot On Books? This Browser Extension Tells You if They’re Available at Your Local Library

artisteer/iStock via Getty Images
artisteer/iStock via Getty Images

If your battle-worn bookcase is groaning under the weight of all the books you've bought online, let us introduce you to a delightful browser extension that you didn’t know you needed.

As CNET reports, Library Extension is a free way to automatically see if the book you’re about to purchase can be checked out from a library (or libraries) near you. After you install it here—for either Chrome or Firefox—click on the tiny stack of books that appears next to your search bar, and choose your state and public libraries from the dropdown menu. Then, search for a book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Audible, or Google Books, and a box along the right side of your window will tell you how many copies are available. It also works on Goodreads, so you don’t even have to be committed to buying your next great read for it to come in handy.

If you’re not picky about book formats, you can add digital catalogs from platforms like OverDrive, Hoopla, and Cloud Library in your extension preferences, and your results will list e-book and audiobook copies among the physical ones. Once you’ve found something you’d like to check out, just click “borrow” and the extension will deliver you straight to its corresponding page on the library’s website.

For veteran library patrons, navigating various catalogs to find the perfect novel might seem simple—or even a little like hunting for treasure—but it can overwhelm a novice borrower and make them stick to one-click purchasing on familiar e-commerce sites. Library Extension takes the confusion out of the process, and gives you the opportunity to save some money, too.

Though the extension will only show you books, they’re not the only things you could be borrowing—here are 11 unexpected items you might be able to check out from your local library.

[h/t CNET]

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