Little Women is the story of four sisters growing up in a cash strapped household when their father is called to fight in a war. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March are all very different in nature from one another, their love for the family being one of the few commonalities. Jo is always portrayed as being an independent, free spirited tom boy who feels no need to blend in with the society. Although this trait makes her a sore sight for most high society folks, there are several people in the story who love her for what she is and understand the emotions behind her actions.
Theodor Laurence moves into the neighbouring house along with his grandfather. Laurie’s grandfather has great expectations of him but Laurie is always too engrossed in having fun and continues to shy away from his responsibilities. The duo find the March household particularly interesting and develop a great fondness for its all female membership. Laurie forms a close friendship with Jo, who shares his free spirit and zest for independence. Another trait common between the two friends is their short temper. However, other than these similarities, there are far too many differences in their characters for Jo and Laurie to feel or display any genuine feelings of love or romance.
Laurie is burdened by his grandfather’s expectations of him. Laurie’s father married an Italian lady, a musician, which displeased the old man, who is very proud. The lady was good and lovely and accomplished, but he did not like her, and never saw his son after he married [ CITATION Alc07 \p 70 \l 1033 ]. Although his grandfather eventually melts towards the musical Beth, Laurie cannot deny that every March sister has artistic tendencies. Jo is very passionate about her writing and seriously pursues it as a career. He is drawn towards Jo and she seems to be his soul mate, sharing his likes and dislikes and agreeing on most of his views. Jo, on the other hand, makes an attempt to build a friendship as she feels sorry that Laurie is such a lonely boy. She sympathizes with him as she knows how happy she is when she is with her sisters.
However, unlike Laurie, who is undecided about what he wants to do with himself and often comes across as ‘lazy’, Jo is very clear about her objectives from the very beginning of the book. She once tells her mother and sisters that “I’ll try and be what he loves to call me, ‘a little woman,’ and not be rough and wild, but do my duty here instead of wanting to be somewhere else.” [ CITATION Alc07 \p 10 \l 1033 ]. Jo earlier wanted to join the army and fight the war besides her father. Although a childish fantasy during those times, Jo immediately changes her goals after reading her father’s letter. She is very stubborn and determined by nature and dearly loves her family. These traits combine and set the stage for Jo’s actions throughout the book. Although both Jo and Laurie struggle to change themselves to for the happiness of their family, Jo is obviously much more dedicated to her objective.
Jo realizes that if she is to support her family, she can never get married and she locks the doorways of her heart from love. Yet, when her closeness to Laurie develops, Jo displays a level of self esteem that further reduces the chances of a romance between the two. In chapter 13 of the book, Jo declares “I’d have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled with books, and I’d write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie’s music”. Jo’s self respect leads her to decide that she needs to be equal or better than Laurie in order to have any kind of a future with him. Jo does not care that people will blame her for marrying Laurie for his money but forms this decision because she wants to be respected for her own achievement. She even displays signs of jealousy when she refuses to let Amy accompany Beth and her when Laurie invites them to visit a theatre.
However, Jo’s resolve to support the family is further strengthened when news of her father’s sickness arrives and the girls’ mother has to leave. Jo goes to the extent of selling off her hair for money in order to fund the trip. From this point, Jo’s priorities are reset, with her family taking getting primary focus again. Jo also displays a greater degree of maturity than Laurie who, never having been a part of a family, behaves thoughtlessly at times. For example, when he knows that Meg has fallen in love with his Tutor, he plays a prank and sends her a fake love letter from the tutor. Jo is furious when this is discovered and makes Laurie apologize to her family after which he is forgiven. Laurie displays his fondness of Jo when he asks her to run away with him to Washington D.C. after his grandfather punishes him for the prank. Jo turns him down, leaving Laurie broken hearted.
There are several such instances where both Jo and Laurie display chances of a budding romance. However, in nearly all such instances, Jo is the first to withdraw, being borne down by her resolve to support her family. Throughout the book, Alcott shows the readers signs of the possibility of a romance but also tries to make it clear that the love will never blossom.
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. Middlesex: The Echo Library, 2007.