Josephine in Little Women: Character Analysis
When we first meet Josephine “Jo” March she is a teenage girl who is hardly the prim and proper representation of the ideal young lady living in Concord, Massachusetts in the Civil War era. She is outspoken, often loudly, and quite stubborn. She has a heated temper and is highly opinionated. She is regularly vocalizing the “injustices” in the world. She, often, wishes that she could have been born a boy so that she might go off to war and fight herself. She does not see herself as the type of girl who would ever grow to be a wife and mother. She is the definition of a “tomboy.” But for all of her vices, she has many virtues. Her greatest struggles are not with immorality, but more so with conformity. Josephine March is a character who does change throughout the course of the story, as she discovers herself, but never strayed from leading a moral life.
Jo has a huge sense of loyalty to her family. The bond between her and her sisters is an immense force in her life. The March family had given up their wealth and status in society in exchange for a virtuous, more pious, existence. Jo’s gift for writing and creating stories allowed her to express her anger, her temper, and need to “act” in an artistic way, while, also, entertaining her and her sisters. Despite her feisty disposition when her family needs help she is sure to step up, like her sister, Meg, would work to help in her family’s financial struggles. When more is needed than can easily be earned she willingly sells her hair. An immoral person would never care so much or make such an obvious personal sacrifice. When her youngest sister, Amy, burns Jo’s entire manuscript in the fireplace because of a jealous temper-tantrum, Jo is enraged. She remains so for a bit. Her reaction was natural considering Amy’s selfish and childish act was completely out of line. Anyone with less moral character than Jo would have held that grudge for a long time and probably have plotted rather nasty revenge. However, her love of her sisters encouraged forgiveness and she did so. Someone who is not on a path of leading a moral life would never be so forgiving.
When her dearest friend Laurie proposes marriage she refuses his request. She plainly does not think that they would be a good match as a married couple; she does not believe that she would make a good wife. She cherished him as her friend, but she was not in love with him. She did not see herself in the conforming position of being a traditional wife. Not marrying a man you do not love is actually quite moral, considering that other women of her time would have happily married for money. Her frustrations with her life take her to the city where she becomes a governess for a family friend, Mrs. Kirke. Here she continues to write. But, unfortunately, is forced to write her darker fictional stories under a pen name, a man’s name. Once she meets Professor Bhaer her temperament does start to soften, and we see changes in her character. Bhaer is a German immigrant, quite educated and sophisticated, despite his disheveled appearance. He see her talents but fears that she is wasting them writing these fanciful, fictitious stories, he feels she should write from her life experiences. In spite of their age difference, she finds a deep connection with him. He is a good, decent man, of good moral fiber. Were she not as moral and thoughtful of a young woman as she was she would never have stopped to pay any notice of this unusual imported Professor.
When Jo returns to her family home, sadly, to visit with her ailing sister Beth, before she dies, Jo has changed. She is, a bit more docile, more mature. She realizes how much she missed her family. She had struggled all her life because she did not quite fit in anywhere, so she thought, and now she realizes that home is exactly where she belonged all along. She ultimately marries the Professor and writes the story of her experiences. She found her place in the world. She finally realized that marrying, especially for love, was not conforming it was fulfilling.
In conclusion, morality is a relative concept. No one individual, culture, or belief system holds the monopoly upon it, but some things are somehow universal. When you are willing to sacrifice, willing to see value in helping others for no real tangible or physical gain, and remain loyal and loving to the family throughout your life, then you are universally moral. Jo March, as well as, her entire family, are fine examples that living without excess, wealth, status, and societal approval does not mean that joy, happiness, and fulfillment are not out of reach. Jo’s morality is reflected from the inside out, never the outside in.