Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Little Women v The March Sisters at Christmas

Last week, while searching the TV schedule for something to watch later that evening, I noticed a film listed on Lifetime channel titled The March Sisters at Christmas. The film had already started but curiosity led me to switch on and see what this was all about. It's a re-working for the 21st century of Louisa M. Alcott's classic novel Little Women. As a longtime fan of the original novel and all its sequels, I simply had to discover what indignities had been inflicted upon it. I'd missed the first half hour or so, but being still so familiar with the original story after too many years to count, I quickly gathered who was who and what was going on. Dang though! Four girls adept with Smartphones...Twitter....this was not going to be easy for me! Once I forced myself into the atmosphere of this adaptation I can't say I didn't enjoy it, but my enjoyment was based in curiosity and comparison rather than in the film or performances.

Placing the storyline of the original novel into today's USA could easily have been achieved in a more authentic way, I think. The good feeling present throughout Little Women just wasn't present for me in The March Sisters at Christmas. One of my favourite parts of the original novel - the introduction of Professor Bhaer as romantic interest for Jo, is completely messed up; the Professor's character becomes a weedy young editor instead of an enigmatic wise and much older man. On that alone I'd mark The March Sisters film a failure. In some ways it came over for me as more of a rather cynical "spoof" than a re-working.

Anyway, all of that had me re-reading my own post on Louisa M. Alcott and Little Women, from 2009. I'm going to copy it here. I still ponder over possible Sun and Moon signs of the girls. In The March Sisters at Christmas Amy has a birthday between Thanksgiving and Christmas, making her a likely Sun Sagittarian. I don't think this is mentioned in the original, and it's not the Sun sign I'd have imagined for her either. As will be seen below, I had imagined her with Leo prominent, though a commenter considered Libra a better match due to her artistic leanings. There's more below on this.


Apart from the opening lines of Dickens' Tale of Two Cities ("It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....."), the only first lines of a novel I have engraved upon my memory are:
"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

I received Little Women as a gift one Christmas long ago. After reading it with much delight I sought out its sequels Good Wives, Little Men, and Jo's Boys. Louisa May Alcott wrote much else, but these books brought her international fame. I've read the books, several times, seen all versions of the movies based on them, and in my first few weeks of blogging I wrote about Ms Alcott and her Little Women. I've fished out my old post, polished it up and here it is, refreshed and revived:

Louisa May was one of four daughters of transcendentalist and teacher Bronson Alcott, and Abigail, his wife, a vocal proponent of women's rights. They settled in Concord just outside of Boston. Louisa May and her sisters were educated mainly by their father. They were often in company of his friends who included such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and other literary figures, all of whom lived nearby. The Alcott family was not materially prosperous however, the children grew up in basic poverty, but surrounded by intellectual richness.

Young Louisa began writing early, first for her sisters, in the form of poems or plays which they would perform. She was forced to take any kind of work available for a few years in order to help the family finances, but she continued writing short stories and poems which were published in popular magazines. At age 22 her first book, "Flower Fables" was published . It was not until age 35 that she wrote "Little Women". The tale is partly autobiographical, drawing broadly from the experiences of herself and her sisters during childhood. At least 30 of her books were published, "Little Women" has never been out of print.

Louisa never married. In later life she became an advocate of women's suffrage and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, MA. Her health had been permanently damaged when serving for a short spell as a Civil War nurse. Louisa contracted typhoid fever, she recovered but suffered the poisoning effects of mercury from a drug used at that time to cure the disease . Her health failed gradually, she died, aged 56, two days after her father had passed away. Interestingly her father was born in 1799, on the same day and month as Louisa May - 29 November.

So, does Louisa May Alcott's astrology fit? Born 29 November 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania at 12.30AM (Astrodatabank).

Sun and Mercury in Sagittarius with 19 degrees between them. Sagittarius is the sign of philosophers and free thinkers. It has been said that Louisa May, though surrounded by transcendentalist philosophies in her young life, did not ascribe to them herself - she followed her own free-thinking, possibly fuelled by her Moon and Uranus in Aquarius.

Saturn is in Virgo, squaring Mercury within 2 minutes of arc - the writer's Saturnian link: discipline and structure.

There is a Grand Trine in Earth linking Mars in Taurus, Saturn in Virgo and Neptune in Capricorn. I believe that this accounts for Louisa May's determination to provide for her poverty stricken family, which she continued to do throughout her lifetime. If she had any ambition or inclination to write worthy intellectual tomes, she decided to forego it in favour of writing what she was sure would sell and provide for her loved ones.

Jupiter, the publishing planet and traditional ruler of Pisces, lies strong in that sign, it squares Louisa's Mercury in Sagittarius, and opposes Saturn in Virgo, producing dynamic energy between the writing and publishing planets.

Pluto in Aries trines her Sagittarian Sun, but exactly squares her Venus in Capricorn. Perhaps while powerful Pluto may have aided her deepest ambitions, did the powerful, if diminutive, planet place an obstacle to her love life ?

She is quoted as having said "I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls, never once, the least bit, with any man". Whereas nowadays that statement might be thought to imply a certain sexual orientation, in the 19th century I very much doubt that was the case.

My longtime interest in astrology inspired me, when much younger, to try to categorise the sisters in Little Women according to their archetypes. I decided that Jo, who I'm sure was Louisa's alter ego had to represent Aquarius (reflection of her Moon). Meg, the homemaker seemed to me to depict Taurus (Cancer would fit well too though). Amy, the spoiled, vain sister was typically Leo. Beth the gentle one fitted Pisces well, I thought. However, after I'd posted the original of this piece, in December 2006, astrologer April Elliot Kent of Big Sky Astrology
commented as follows, with an alternative, and probably more accurate view.

April said...
Thanks for a fine post about the author of one of my favorite books! But I must object: Amy didn't have the fiery spunk of a Leo! (Well, perhaps I'm biased, being a Leo myself.) I'm thinking she had to be a Libra with all her paintbrushes and that fine sucking-up ability. And Jo was such a Sag to me (the character even says she was born in November!) - but had to have Mercury in Scorpio with that temper of hers. But yes, let's give her an Aquarius Moon!

December 15, 2006 12:37 PM
Twilight said... Thanks, April!

Sag. was my second choice for Jo, Aquarius (my own prejudice) was decided more on the content of the sequel books I guess, on her disinterest in marriage, and general obtuse-ness. lol! I'd forgotten about her birthday having been mentioned.

You're probably right about Amy, too. Libra would better fit her arty side.
That clothes peg got me though !!
If LW were set in today's world Amy would be at the head of the queue at the plastic surgeon's office! :-)

Thinking about this again now, I reckon additional Aquarius flavour in the novels comes from Prof. Bhaer, who Jo eventually married, her Aquarius Moon and his Aquarius Sun would be a good combination.


mike said...

Fortunately, I missed "The March Sisters at Xmas". Remakes are rarely as good as the template original and most movies are rarely better than the tome they are based.

LM Alcott's chart has one striking feature: Her Jupiter in the 7th and on her DSC is the sole dispositor for all of her planets...and it's the material ruler of Pisces. Jupiter is opposed Saturn in the 1st and sextile Neptune in the 5th (Saturn is trine Neptune). Jupiter is the only water planet. Jupiter essentially rules all of her planets, her natal chart.

She would have been completely enamored by relationships, but perhaps impotent with them due to her Saturn placement-aspects. This is further compounded with Neptune's placement-aspects. She would have found a proper outlet by expressing her Sun (ego) in the 3rd house of writing and siblings, furthered with Mercury in Sag in the 4th (family)...both in Jupiter's home of Sag.

Isabel Hickey says of Saturn trine Neptune: "Brings in spiritual power and philosophical understanding...The practical dreamer who can bring his ideas into concrete expression."

Twilight, I know that you don't put much into dispositors, but you'd be surprised how many influential people have one sole dispositor over all their planets. It gives that individual exceptional focus, which is likely to make them famous for some reason or other (good or bad...LOL).

Merry Xmas, Twilight and anyjazz!!! Enjoying the snogging under the mistletoe?

Twilight said...

mike~ Thanks for your observations. I'll study them a bit later on - am not firing on all cylinders (or any) at present. We were up all night at the ER. Husband's BP went ultra-erratic (again). Looks like a quirky kind of Christmas - not feeling at all bright and festive now....but thank you for your good wishes - I hope you have a peaceful and happy day tomorrow - and today - and always. :-)

mike (again) said...

Geeeeez, Twilight! I certainly hope that anyjazz stabilizes...he's in good hands with you there watching over him. I read a previous post of yours dated several years ago about your road trip that was a U-turn back to Oklahoma due to his erratic BP.

We have a very pesky Mars-Uranus right now. Strange aspects this week and a weird new moon January 1st. Take care, both of you.

If you want something to do while waiting this out, please do some internet research on TAURINE. It would help aj's insulin concerns, too, as well as heart problems. It's a relatively inexpensive supplement available at most healthfood stores and over the internet. I highly recommend it, but I understand if you two aren't interested (everyone always dispenses "helpful" advice!).



Twilight said...

mike (again) - Thanks mike! His numbers are still a bit up and down but the ER Doc prescribed increased dose of one of his meds, which sems to be keeping levels less scary, but not yet stable. We were at the ER from 1.15 am to after 6 am, Doc said it was the busiest night he's ever known. He was actually sprinting around looking after 18 different emergency patients. Very nice guy though - same one we saw 10 days ago when same thing happened.

Thanks - I'll investigate Taurine.
Sounds interesting.

Been occupying myself today on the family tree thing. I had a surprise yesterday - a comment and e-mail address from someone who must be a distant relative (very distant) who had read my last blog on genealogy. My 7th great grandfather and an ancestor of hers were brothers back in the 1600s. In my stare of haze though I wasn't in the best of states to be very clear about it all. Will contact her again tomorrow.

LB said...

Merry Christmas, Twilight. Sorry to read about your husband's erratic BP though. Wishing you both health and healing in the New Year (if not sooner).

Merry Christmas to you too, mike.:)

mike (again) said...

@LB...hey, long time no hear! A big Xmas greeting to you, too! Hope all is well. Where have you been?

@Twilight...hope you and aj get some sleep tonight.

LB said...

Hey mike ~ Thanks.:) I've been busy (big lifestyle changes), still reading (lurking) and still occasionally commenting - just not as much.

Off subject, but did I ever thank you for the tip about Borax? If not, a BIG thanks. It worked where everything else had failed. My Virgo placements were (and are) very pleased.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Hi there - nice to see you !
Thanks for the good wishes. Husband feels alright, which is good, but unsettling in that there's no real warning of something going wrong.
Luckily we have a BP monitor at home so regular checks are easy. BP still not good, but less extreme than Monday/Tuesday.

Happy Christmas to you and yours!

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Thanks - yes better sleep last night, though it was after 2 am when we ventured to bed after more BP spikes.

We missed the traditional Christmas Eve family get together at husband's son's home. Son and daughter brought us a version of "meals on wheels" from their festive buffet though. :-)

LB said...

Twilight ~ If you haven't already seen it, you'd probably enjoy the PBS documentary, "Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women": http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/louisa-may-alcott/scenes-from-the-film/1344/

It aired again last night, when I watched it for the first time. Though I was never a big fan of "Little Women" (having inherited my mom's childhood copy), after learning more about her, I now feel a certain admiration for Alcott. Prior to watching, I had no idea she was also an abolitionist.

By the way, the poor health she suffered from later in life is mentioned as possibly being due to Lupus rather than mercury poisoning.

Hope all is well with you and anyjazz.:)

Twilight said...

LB ~ Oh yes, I'd like to see that. You'll have different PBS schedules from ours; maybe we'll get the programme here in OK at some point. I'll watch for it.

Anyjazz's BP isn't as erratic now, generally lower - big improvement and he feels better (so do I, because we're less on edge about it) - thanks for asking. :-)

Vanilla Rose said...

A lot of the stuff in "Little Women" didn't happen till the sequel, "Good Wives". #ConfusingForPedants I never read "Jo's Boys" or "Little Men".

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~ In the "Little Women" films - the June Allyson as Jo - older version, and the later one from 1994 you mean VR? You're quite likely correct, but I can't now recall where one novel ended and the other began, they did follow on quite tightly one from the other.

In the updated to the 21st century adaptation I saw recently they did hop into the future a bit by having Amy married to Laurie so soon, but that film wasn't meant to be an exact adaptation of the novel.