Why Marmee’s Anger Is One of the Most Relatable Parts of ‘Little Women’

Jo and Marmee during Marmee's anger confession scene in Little Women.

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is a timeless classic for countless reasons, and there are ample means of discussing and deconstructing the books and the adaptations. And considering that there are a few variations now, they each do something intrinsically unique in their approach. However, Greta Gerwig‘s adaptation might just be the most exemplary showcase of Marmee’s anger and why it’s one of the most relatable details in Little Women.

Whether in the 1860s or 2023, women continue to face perils while bearing the weight of their loved ones on their shoulders. In Gerwig’s latest blockbuster, Barbieshe notes that “We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they’ve come,” and much of that reflects the light and integrity that Marmee March also carries with her. When Marmee tells Jo, “I’m angry nearly every day of my life,” she reminds viewers of the weight women carry, noting that many aren’t patient by nature. It’s an anger that makes tremendous sense no matter when a viewer watches the film because, as women, we can wholeheartedly understand both the rage and the need to hold it in.

Marmee’s Anger in Little Women Breathes Life Into a Detail We’re Still Quiet About

Laura Dern as Marmee March giving a blanket to a soldier's father in Little Women 2019.
©Sony Pictures

Again, no matter what period we’re living in, anger isn’t something women can speak on freely. If you’re angry, you’re being too emotional. If you’re angry, you’re taking things too far. If you’re holding it in, you’re not speaking your truth, or you’re being petty, purposely giving the silent treatment to manipulate. There’s no way in which it’s justified, even if it is because the world still refuses to release the boxes it places us in.

The fact remains that some of the angriest people are the kindest. Like Marmee March, they’re the women who’ll take the scarves off her necks and the food from their tables to give to those less fortunate. They’re the women carrying the crosses government officials should be holding onto, and they’re the women doing everything without an ounce of complaint. Because, really, anger is an emotion that’s driven by unfairness and injustice. It’s what happens when we see things that frustrate us, and we allow our compassion to push us to places where we put action in front of the causes we believe in.

Laura Dern as Marmee March in 2019 Little Women
©Sony Pictures

Marmee’s anger in Little Women is entirely justified because she’s a mother of four, watching her husband go off in yet another war that innocent lives shouldn’t have to fight. She watches sick children die without proper food or medication, and then she loses one of her daughters because, like her mother, Beth March refused to stand by and let others suffer. She gives and gives, even when the weariness is visibly weighing her down. Marmee’s anger is the most relatable part of the story because it reflects how much women carry and how much we’re forced to conceal out of fear of how we’ll be securitized for feeling anything at all when the odds are so often stacked against us.

Now, while anger sometimes leads to wrongful actions or harboring rage as a crutch to justify hurting others, Marmee’s anger instead exhibits what it means to continue trying despite what’s ahead. Amy has a right to be angry at Jo for not taking her to the theater, and Jo has a right to be angry at her sister for burning her stories. But it’s what both women do with their waves of anger that shows a test of their characters and patience. The sun shouldn’t go down on anyone’s rage, yet sometimes it sits within us even while we don’t act upon it because the world continues to take from women while forcing them to adapt amiably. But time after time, women stand still, fighting against the fury inside of them to make the world a better place for those who will come after them. And maybe someday, we’ll all come to a place where it’s not such a tremendous part of us, but today’s not that day. Though some of the best women in the world, whether real or fictional, understand anger intimately.


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