In Defence of Amy March
“I believe we have some power over who we love. It isn’t something that just happens to a person.”
One of the more controversial lines voiced by a personality so loved and yet fiercely detested, the iconic and timeless character that despite contrasting opinions is known world-over, Amy March.
Popularly known as the sister that ‘stole’ Laurie from Jo, that burned her manuscript and took away her once in a lifetime opportunity of visiting Europe, Amy doesn’t exactly fit into the good books of most.
But that’s where the beauty lies, in the depths of their relationship. Amy and Jo have more in common than we realize- they’re both strong, enterprising women, that dream of financial stability and profession in an era that as Amy puts herself, is “hard on ambitious girls”. Let’s not forget the fact that Amy was only 12 when she burned Jo’s manuscript; and if we really read into the situation and view it from a different lens, Amy was a clever little girl. Her sole aim in that moment of seething rage was to hurt Jo and being an artist herself she knew, nothing could be more painful than having your art destroyed.
I think most of the hate comes from the fact that Amy, being the youngest, always got her way, and was spoilt more than the rest of the three March sisters. Jo and Amy both dreamt of the same thing, but Jo wasn’t willing to sacrifice her freedom. Jo was never fond of Aunt March and her ways, but Amy grabbed the opportunity. She made full use of her femininity, and grew into a woman of good manners and looks, the ‘flower of the family’, and became Aunt March’s companion in Paris and Rome. She knew what she wanted, how much she wanted it, and we judge her for going after what she’d known all her life.
And let’s not forget, one of the most powerful dialogues was delivered by Amy. She snaps at Laurie for being lazy and points out the misogyny that existed in society. She divulges beautifully, that women did not possess the right to own anything; they couldn’t make their own money, especially not a poetess, not enough to support her family. If she did have money, which she didn’t, it would belong to her husband the minute they were married; when she bore children, they would be his and not hers. She highlights that marriage is nothing but an economic proposition, and nothing anyone can say will change that, so whatever it may be, good or bad, she asks not to be judged for marrying rich.
From one perspective I can laud her courage and determination to achieve her dreams, but from another perspective, I find the whole idea impractical. Personally, just as Laurie, I believe getting married to somebody you aren’t in love with isn’t viable. This is where we see her character development- as she grows and learns, she realizes she doesn’t belong with Fred Vaughn and rejects his proposal. She feels ashamed and is embarrassed that she ever spoke the words she did. She loves Laurie for who he is, and never once compromises on her dignified mannerisms, always addressing him as ‘My Lord’.
And that’s the characteristic I adore the most in Amy- her ability to love so deeply. She really did love Laurie, even in the days of their childhood; and Jo rejected Laurie in the first place. On announcing their marriage to the family, Amy feels relieved that Jo approves; her sister’s blessing still means that much to her.
As far as burning Jo’s manuscript goes, once again, in one way or another shows how much she really adores her older sister. It’s almost like she sees her sister as something great, something she can never be, ‘something magical’, like nothing she ever does could ever affect Jo that much. She has a special connection with Meg, despite being polar opposites in terms of temperament. Amy names her daughter after Beth and loves her to death.
Amy is inspiring, real, and as she puts it, ‘just a woman’, but she’s more than ‘just’ a woman- she is the epitome of growth from immaturity and selfishness to something loving, ambitious and practical. Her viewpoints are different and refreshing, she’s uncompromising and daring, she’s beautiful and strong, she’s ‘great or nothing’.