It’s hard not to think about character when reading Little Women. Jo may be one of the most famous in American literature, and for good reason. Alcott was particular gifted at writing well-rounded, complex, and lovable characters—this is particularly evident in the various relationships between the sisters and their male counterparts. I’ve tried to study this art in Alcott’s writing, but she makes it look so easy that it’s difficult to pick out exactly how she does it.
I’ve also started to consider my own character compared to those in the novel. I didn’t anticipate considering myself as a character and the insight that would bring. It’s given me more self-compassion and perspective. This is something I want to bring into my own writing moving forward.
I’m curious to see how these characters differ in the various adaptions and if Alcott’s characterization is able to shine through in the various takes.
Since I moved here I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my upbringing. In a way, it was our own Orchard House. My parents had unorthodox ideas on how to raise their kids: we were homeschooled, given a lot of freedom to express ourselves creatively, and took extensive time off to travel. There were even times when we put aside school work or household duties to go help a family in need. So much of this has been reflected back to me while reading Alcott’s story.
How fitting that I should move from my own Orchard House to an apartment on Grove Avenue. I’m lonely without my sisters and mother, but I’m able to focus on my writing and studies. I can already see how this period has strengthened me as a writer and person in my own right. I wonder how much more growth lies ahead of me here at Grove Avenue.
My world has been so expanded in this past year. I went to Paris, wrote my first serious piece of writing, and moved away from home. I want to keep this momentum and use this time to propel me forward into new directions and new experiences.
The fiction half of this class really caught my eye. I was interested in studying Alcott’s book as well as its relationship to the various adaptations. What’s funny is that I didn’t think that we’d be studying the mechanics of film before getting to the book. I guess I was so excited about the fiction part that I hadn’t considered the film part beyond the various versions of Little Women.
Our lectures keep bringing me back to the History of Film course I took last summer at my local community college – though our lectures here at VCU are exceedingly better. It’s weird for me to think on the fact that at that time I was still anticipating a career in film. My decision to focus on English is a new one, but I’ve settled into it so quickly that I forget that just over a year ago I hadn’t even considered being an English major. I think that version of Reed would be experiencing this class very differently than I am.
Jumping back into the world of film has been odd. I already feel sort of alienated from it in some ways. But I’m just now starting to reacquaint myself with it and establish a new relationship with it. This weekend I revisited one of my favorite films that made me want to make movies. Ironically, the book on which it was based was the very thing that made me want to go back to school several summers ago. This story, both in novel and motion picture form, has inspired me.
Revisiting this film and considering how my relationship to it and the book has changed has made me think that maybe I’ll find a niche for myself in between the worlds of cinema and literature that feels right for me. I wonder what the Reed of Next Summer will think of that.
Editing, while an art unto itself, seems to be the secret ingredient of most forms of art. Writing, photography, and filmmaking all benefit from skillful editing, each in similar ways. The rhythm and pace of writing is transformed just as a film is reshaped by how much is left and how much is taken away. Perhaps editing is the art of “taking away” with the purpose of bettering that which is left behind.
I was interested by the detail that shot length has decreased over the years. Trends in editing might point to changes in society. To me this seems connected to the trend of minimalism, which could be summarized as the art of editing one’s life. The excess in personal belongings is taken away so that the necessary items can be enjoyed fully. Of course, like most things, there is a benefit and weakness in this philosophy. The warmth that comes from a home decorated with details and filled with mementos might become a thing of the past if the trend in minimalism continues.
When my grandmother passed away I was tasked with helping my grandfather go through their home and pack it all into just a few boxes. While I was cleaning out my grandmother’s desk I was taken back by all of the little traces of her character – notes to herself, photos of a great-grandchild tucked away behind cook books, cough drops stashed in a corner of the drawer. I believe there’s a fine line between clutter and humanity. Take all of the excess away and life has been sterilized of its humaneness.
Another consideration about editing: I’ve long forgotten whose quote this is, but my older sister would always remind me that one cannot freely create and edit at the same time. There’s a time for indulging in the excess – filling the drawers with cough drops – and there’s a time for throwing out all but two or three. Life is about balance. I imagine editing is, too.