Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Why I Love . . . {Amy March}


First off, a quick clarification:  I don't actually love Amy.  I like her and I think she deserves a little more love and a lot less flak.  So here I be. ;)

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Much like Susan Pevensie, Amy March seems to have been universally (or almost universally) deemed the "bad one" of her siblings.  People say that Amy is spoiled, bratty, selfish, vain . . .  Or, they simply invalidate her.  They say that they just don't like her, that she's just unlikable, usually for the aforementioned reasons.

I myself might have considered her my least favorite of the March sisters once upon a time.  But lately I've come to realize that this attitude toward Amy is all wrong.


Let's review
  • Amy, at the start of the story, is twelve.  
  • She is, ergo, the youngest of the March sisters.
  • It is generally concluded that Amy is a little spoiled, and that she tends to be vain, selfish, and "flighty," and tries unsuccessfully to use big words in an attempt to seem more sophisticated. ;-P  (Okay but let's just be honest about that last one:  we have ALL been there.)  
  • She is obsessed with two things: her nose and art.
  • Amy does not stay her twelve-year-old self forever.

OKAY. *stretches hands*  Allow me to unpack this.


At the beginning of the story, yes -- Amy is self-centered.  And she's a little entitled.  But might I point out that all of the March girls are a little self-centered?  (Might I point out that every human bean is a little self-centered?!)  

Jo is focused on bewailing her gender and gaining professional affirmation of her writing.  (To say nothing of the temper that she herself recognizes as a problem.)

Meg is preoccupied with creating elegance for herself -- with being like other, more privileged girls.  She pities herself for her family's fall from financial grace.

(I don't know what Beth's self-centeredness is because it's so well-hidden, but I can believe it might be there.)


So before we go any farther, can we just acknowledge the hypocrisy of hating on Amy when no one seems to judge Jo or Meg?  Especially Jo.  I feel like some people might dislike Meg, but I haven't found a ton of people who think that Jo has legitimate issues, too.  And that bOTHERS mE.

*Is Huffy*

I think, too, that it's possible that there is one event that cements Amy's "bad girl" status in many people's eyes: the burning of Jo's book.  

Now, is this a seriously wrong, disgustingly bratty, vengeful (and majorly disproportional) act?  Yes.  For sure.  But, again, I ask everyone to remember that 1) she. was. a. child. and 2) one mistake -- even if it's as significantly awful as this one -- should not be enough to eternally condemn someone.  ESPECIALLY if that person was a child when the mistake was made.

You might be tempted to point out that that kind of tantrum-level bad behavior should never be tolerated or excused away, no matter what the age of a child, and I get that.  I'm just saying that, in this case (or, really, any case), it's not sufficient reason to vilify someone.


Also, one thing that just came to me is, though Amy is the youngest, and though I just built a whole defense around her youth . . . she's really not that much younger than any of her sisters?  And yet every single one of them treats her like a child.  

Which, obviously, I just pointed out that she is.  But, if you stop and think about it, is it entirely irrational to suppose that constantly being reminded of your youngest-sibling status -- by siblings who really have no right to throw it in your face, all things considered -- might cultivate some need to prove maturity?  Clearly, if this is the case, Amy goes about it all wrong and royally defeats the purpose, instead becoming more immature.  But it's worth considering, I think.  It's possible that the other March girls treat Amy with self-proclaimed authority and more than a touch of superiority because she is so immature in the beginning, but isn't there also a chance that Amy's continued struggle with trying to be more grown-up than she is betrays frustration with her sisters' refusal to take her seriously?  

Food for thought.


Another point I made earlier on was that Amy does not stay the way she is at the beginning of the story.  There may be static characters in Little Women, but Amy is not one of them.  In fact, as I was recently telling a friend, I would go so far as to say that Amy's arc is the most significant.  

Sadly, the film adaptations -- at least the ones I've seen -- do not devote much time to Amy's development (though I think the 1994 movie does a more than passable job), so we must return to the source material for our information.  

Like Jo and Meg, Amy never becomes a flawless character (thank goodness).  She may still struggle with vanity, and she may still be too focused on worldly riches, even as she is improving in overall character.  Exhibit A:

"[Laurie] found nothing to perplex or disappoint, much to admire and approve, for, overlooking a few little affectations of speech and manner, she was as sprightly and graceful as ever, with the addition of that indescribable something in dress and bearing which we call elegance.  Always mature for her age, she had gained a certain aplomb in both carriage and conversation, which made her seem more of a woman of the world than she was, but her old petulance now and then showed itself, her strong will still held its own, and her native frankness was unspoiled by foreign polish." ~ Chapter 37


Though womanhood does not magically cure Amy of all her ills, I do not think she retains many delusions about herself during her foreign tour (at one point, in a letter to her family, she even refers to "her nonsense").  I think she knows herself, and I think she knows others.  She grows into a keenly perceptive individual, I believe, as evidenced by her interactions with Laurie in Europe.  (Can we take a moment to appreciate how she handles him??  She gives him zero coddling and calls him out on his melodrama, and I say more power to her.)

Alcott makes it clear, by the end of the book, that Amy has finally attained the maturity she sought after throughout so much of the story.  Exhibit B:

     "Mrs. March and her husband smiled and nodded at each other with happy faces, for they saw that their youngest had done well, not only in worldly things, but the better wealth of love, confidence, and happiness.
     For Amy's face was full of the soft brightness which betokens a peaceful heart, her voice had a new tenderness in it, and the cool, prim carriage was changed to a gentle dignity, both womanly and winning.  No little affectations marred it, and the cordial sweetness of her manner was more charming than the new beauty or the old grace, for it stamped her at once with the unmistakable sign of the true gentlewoman she had hoped to become." ~ Chapter 43


And speaking of love, don't even get me started on people's negativity about the coupling of Laurie and Amy.  


(THEY ARE FINE.  THEY ARE VALID.)


Also, harping on Amy's flaws means ignoring all her strengths -- her usual sweetness, her quick wit, her ability to be generous even if it means sacrificing something (the older three weren't the only ones who gave up their Christmas breakfast, guys), her creativity, her love for her parents and sisters, her friendliness . . .  She is far from all bad, fam.

So that's all I have to say, really.  Start checking out the beams jutting out of Jo's and Meg's eyes, too, and cut Amy March some ever-lovin' slack.

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I thought it was so neat that some of you specifically mentioned another "Why I Love . . . " post, since I had already been thinking about making one! :D
So, what do you think?  Agree, disagree?















15 comments:

  1. Love this post, Olivia!!! Yes, Amy is such a misunderstood character! I have enjoyed and even admired her character ever since I first read all about her time in Europe, many years ago! She sounds so kind and elegant and mature, yet so many people continue to hate on her. :-/

    I love the quotes you included that describe her so wonderfully, and the point you made about her calling Laurie out on his rather immature behavior! "More power to her", indeed! ;-)

    ~ Catie

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  2. YEES!! I agree with EVERYTHING you said!! In fact, I remember the first time I read Little Women, that I liked Amy more than Jo......

    ~Ceci

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  3. You've got a point about Amy maybe being frustrated that the older ones don't take her seriously enough. And when I finally read 'Good Wives' (which is the second half of the story and a separate book in the UK) i actually really liked her. And I liked her with Laurie!!! BUT there is absolutely no excuse for the book burning incident. It would be easier to forgive if she had been in any way punished, or if she was actually sorry!

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  4. Thank you! I'm so glad I'm not alone! I certainly didn't like Amy as much at first, but I know that she has grown up and that she has matured as a person. She's not stuck as a bratty little girl forever! And she and Laurie are good (if not perfect) for eachother, no matter what my mom says.

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  5. *jumps up and down excitedly* AGREE! AGREE! AGREE!

    I couldn't have said it any better myself. :D (Seriously... "you should have been a lawyer." ;)) (I love Jo's answer to that in the 1994 version. It makes me want to use that line at some point because it's so true. :P) I was just learning to write persuasive essays for school (for my Institute of Excellence in Writing) and you really did a great job here!! I'M SOLD. ;D

    Of course, it helps that I already agreed with you but ANYWAY.


    Some extra agree-worthy points you made:
    -Aww yes, poor little Amy. She was ONLY 12. *scoops her up in my arms protectively*
    -Definitely! I think people forget that Louisa May Alcott showed that all the girls had their flaws (their "burdens") as they were little, and the story showed how they developed in their maturity, fought the good fight and grew to be more and more like the little women that their parents had hoped they would be all along.
    -Probably the point where I was standing up and applauding you the most ('BRAVO!') was your point about how Amy is trying to prove to her older sisters that she is grown up and less like a "child" than they make out. They do tease her, and she wants to prove herself one of them and be respected and more... loved openly. I resonate with that a lot. I did the same thing myself (and probably still do too much :P) with MY older siblings! (And I'm not even the youngest!)
    -Yes, I believe Amy became a beautiful, graceful, thoughtful young woman by the end of the story - someone whom anyone would like to be around.
    -And I think Laurie and Amy aren't bad together!! Who says that?! *narrows eyes* If anyone looked a little doubtful in the relationship, it would be Laurie - he was the one who switched from one girl to the other. Imagine how Amy must have felt all those years! Liking the boy who was so obviously "in love" with her sister and even proposed to her! How hard would that have been for her?! She was very patient, and it was never told that she said anything spiteful to Jo out of jealousy about it. I think she deserved him. (Much better than Fred Vaughn. ;D)
    -Also the way she tells off Laurie. Mwuhahaha. That's my girl. (I feel like that's something I would do. :P)

    So yes, summing it up - definitely an AGREE!!!

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  6. You know I agree with this!!! Well done, Olivia!! You brought up some really great points. Love it, love it, love it!!! <3 <3 <3

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  7. YAAAAS. I've always liked Amy, probably from the first time I read the book (though that was so long ago I hardly remember). I do hate and loathe how she burns Jo's book, but she does learn from that. And she becomes a wonderful, accomplished, elegant lady.

    I must admit that I don't totally ship her and Laurie, simply because I felt that their relationship didn't get developed enough for me to root for them. But I'm NOT a Jo and Laurie shipper, so that helps with liking the Laurie/Amy pairing at least a little.

    Great post!

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  8. TRUTH!!! I do love Amy, though I used to dislike her because I was jealous that she was a silly child like me, but then she got to go to travel. XD

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  9. Haha, you've schooled us on Amy, that's for sure! ;) I definitely agree though. She does grow on you as you read the book through. At least the 90s movie version had two different actresses for Amy... the new series makes Amy seem even more immature by having an adult actress play a 12 year old.

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  10. Okay, but Enjolras. I laughed aloud, that was so perfect.

    I agree. I actually like Amy better than Meg, who's stifling in her I'm-so-grown-up-because-I'm-the-oldest self-importance. Sometimes. I mean, Meg is nice too, but I don't like her that well.

    Also, I have NEVER thought Jo and Laurie would be a good match -- Jo's right that it would be disastrous. Laurie and Amy, though, have just what each other needs, and I love them together. So there.

    (But Enjolras! And the caption! It's so perfect!)

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  11. Great post! You have your point. I definitely agree with all you said.

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  12. Great share! i have always liked Amy. The story is really good. Thanks!

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  13. *BANGS FIST ON TABLE* THIS!! I agree 100 percent - I have often taken it upon myself to defend Amy because - as you said - she doesn't REMAIN 12!!

    Most excellent post!

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  14. Oh yay!!!!! You brought back your "Why I Love . . ." posts!!! *grins happily*

    Myself, I have to say, I'm not really a fan of Amy OR Meg OR Jo as characters. Or Laurie.
    Or Marmee, for that matter. They all bug me. In fact, it's incredibly weird that I'm so fond of Little Women as a story, when THE ONLY CHARACTER I TRULY LOVE IS BETH, AND SHE DIES.

    *facepalm*

    I think I more enjoy Little Women because it's such a long and complex family saga, and I enjoy watching the events unfold over time . . . not because of my fondness for the characters themselves?

    Anywho.

    LISTEN HERE U STALE BAGUETTE . . . *dies laughing* That was perfect!!!

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