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If you’ve been to see writer-director Greta Gerwig‘s adaptation of Little Women, then you already know she made a slight change, keeping in mind the story’s author Louisa May Alcott.

If you haven’t been to the cinema yet, and don’t want to know what happens in advance, please look away.

The classic story follows four sisters who are making their way through life in the mid 1800s. The girls grow up in the same house, with strong values, but all have different paths. Throughout the story, Jo March, who is a writer and narrates the story, says she doesn’t want to get married. She’d like to work and live out her life on her own terms.

When sitting down with Cinema Blend, Gerwig shared her initial reaction to the ending, saying, “When in the book, it said, ‘And Jo stopped up her ink stand and didn’t write again,” I was like, ‘What!?’ And then, ‘She got married and opened this school and had babies…’ I was like, ‘Noooo. No! I’m pretending that didn’t happen.'”

After doing some digging, Gerwig said, “I discovered that Louisa May Alcott never got married. And she never had kids. And that she never wanted Jo to get married and have kids. She wanted Jo to be, as she said, ‘A literary spinster with books for children.'”

Gerwig explains her motivation in tweaking a classic, saying, “And, I thought, ‘Maybe there’s a way to do that now.’ If she couldn’t do it then, or she felt like she couldn’t do it then, maybe we could do it now. It’s finding that distance between life and fiction, that I find intellectually exciting and very emotional.”

SPOILER ALERT: Gerwig used her artistic license and wrote in a scene, where we see Jo meeting with her publisher. The two go back and forth about her protagonist’s fate. As well, they negotiate the copyright to her novel, which she ends up retaining (hoorah!). She says, to the effect, “If I’m going to marry off my character, then I should actually make some money off of it.”

The added scene helps explain how the book’s ending may have come about and that Alcott herself may have been reluctant. In 19th century literature, women were either married off or killed off… there wasn’t much else in between.

Saorise Ronan, who plays Jo, gave great reinforcement to the above statement, saying, “What I really love about it, from an audience’s perspective, is that she’s acknowledging that we’re there. She’s acknowledging that we’re watching what’s happening and we know what the real-life story is.”

Ronan stands by her director’s decision: “This was our opportunity. And Greta’s opportunity. To give Louisa the ending that she probably would have wanted. And she wouldn’t have changed, if it had been 2019.”

In addition to Ronan, you can look for Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen as the March sisters. Laura Dern plays their mother, with Meryl Streep taking on the role of Aunt March. Little Women is in theaters now.

Have you ever read a book and kind of ignored the ending, making up your own? Please share!

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Filed Under: Greta Gerwig, Little Women
By Brigid Brown