What is Success? A Little Women Comparison

What is Success? A Little Women Comparison

How do you define success? It’s a loaded question, isn’t it?

In the newest adaptation of L.M. Alcott’s Little Women, director Greta Gerwig helps viewers and readers take a fresh look at a favorite classic. One of the biggest questions I felt she asked through the retelling is, “What is success?”

For Meg, success is finding happiness in love, and not things. Although she longs for beautiful things in the world, she learns that the things that last, the things that are worth more than pearls or pretty dresses, is the love of a good man, and a happy family.

When she’s about to get married, Jo pleads with her, saying she’ll be bored of her husband in two years. I absolutely love Meg’s response:

“Just because my dreams are different than yours doesn’t make them unimportant.”

I think this is true for all people no matter where they are in life. We all have different dreams, and some of us are still trying to figure out what our heart’s desire is at all.

For Jo, success lies in getting published. Boy, does that hit home right now. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was nine years old, and I’m pursuing that ambition as we speak. It’s been extremely difficult and taken much longer than I would have liked, and watching movies like this one make me break down in tears with the realization of just how badly I want this dream to come to fruition.

I absolutely love how Jo’s story culmination is when she’s watching her book getting bound. One of those common images we see in TV shows is that of the new mother looking through the large glass at her new baby. I felt like Gerwig captured this perfectly with Jo, showing how to her, getting her novel published is equal to how other women might feel after giving birth.

This brings us to Beth. My favorite part in the movie, something that really stuck with me this time, was when Jo and Beth are sitting on the beach, and they have this conversation:

Beth: Sit here and write me something.
Jo: I can’t. I don’t think I can anymore.
Beth: Why?
Jo: It’s just, no even cares to hear my stories anyway.
Beth: Write something for me. You are a writer. Even before anyone knew or paid you. … Do what Marmee taught us to do. Do it for someone else.

For Beth, success is in peace, in family, in loving others. She’s the encourager, the comforter, the peace-maker of the family. As Amy says, “She was the best of us.”

When it comes to Amy, she seems to want to be the best at something, but ultimately, she wants to be loved. “I’d be respected if I couldn’t be loved,” she says, making the point that she’d always known she’d have to marry rich. She’s an incredibly talented artist, and yet she seems unable to see her own potential without having someone else tell her she’s wonderful. When it comes to the five love languages, she’s clearly a Words of Affirmation.

So what does success mean to me? I would say I’m mostly an amalgam of the elder two sisters: Meg and Jo. I’ve been blessed to find the love of a good man, and to have two wonderful children. I’ve always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and I’ve imagined I could support my family by writing. But even if I never get published, I’ll continue writing for me and for my family, because it makes me happy. 🙂

So tell me: What is success to you?


If you’d like to hear more from Greta Gerwig herself, I recommend checking out this YouTube interview where she talks about her process. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *