When I first read the book Little Women, after having seen the movie and musical beforehand, I was very interested to see the characters in the book compared those in the adaptations.
The Main Character
The novel is evenly focused on each of the characters of interest, yet we still get the impression that Jo is the main character. In the musical, the audience can be made very certain that Jo is the main character. Although Marmee has two solos, one is aimed towards Jo and the marriage that John Brooke and Meg decide on in More Than I Am affects Jo.
I would like to now focus on some separate roles in the book, movie, and musical. I will not look into Jo, because her character seems very obvious and simultaneous throughout most of the adaptations. All you need do to learn the character of Jo is read the novel and perhaps its following sequels Little Men and Jo’s Boys.
What Makes a Character?
What makes a character? Those that are involved with plays and musicals contemplate this deeply. A character is made by their characteristics, personalities, and quirks.
To begin, the main roles of Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy all share one thing between all the renditions of the novel. They all have the same name in each version.
Just because the roles in Little Women share the same names in each adaptation does not mean they are entirely the same character. This goes for any characters that have been adapted. The perception of character is different for each reader or audience member, but the majority of deductions made by people are extremely similar. This is the goal of the author of a character, to place its characteristics before people rather than leave it open for the imagination of the reader.
Character Comparison of Theodore Laurence III
The first character I’ll look at is Theodore Laurence the Third, better known as Laurie. In each comparison I will start with the original character in the novel, the musical character, then the movie character.
The novel character is jovial in a childish way. When Jo finds him he is distressed, bored, lonely, and unambitious. He is altogether an enjoyable person after he finds affections in his Grandfather and the March family. He attempts to marry Jo, and, after a while, is able to get over the fact that she sees him only as a friend. He finds Amy in Europe and they marry.
The musical character seemed a bit too far on the silly and jovial side. Rather than a happy person, he seemed overly and unnaturally immature. It is quite a stun when he proposes to Jo, because he acts like such a child. The marriage to Amy later on makes him a bit more mature. This attitude may have to do with the actor who portrayed Laurie when I saw the musical, but I believe the script gives the actor full opportunity in the way it is written to act thus.
Why did the writers change things the way they did? There are good reasons. In the case of Laurie, I think that musicals these days need the ability to make an audience laugh. Laurie acts, in the musical, as the comedic relief. Such as when Laurie awkwardly meets the March girls and says, ‘I play the piccolo! I can hold my breath for two minutes before passing out!’.
The movie character is the most serious of the trio of characters. He has a playful attitude, but at the same time it seems aloof and uncomfortable.
In the Next Part
Next up, I will go into the deep character of Beth March and her characteristics throughout each adaptation of Little Women.