Shifting the Focus: A Comparative Analysis of the Protagonists of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Greta Gerwig's Little Women
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This thesis analyses the way in which the four main characters of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868) compare to those in Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of the novel. Using adaptation theory to delineate what an adaptation is and, subsequently, show the importance of social context in adaptations, this thesis demonstrates that, especially in adaptations of classic stories like Little Women, the way in which characters are portrayed is important. Through a close reading of the text and the film, this thesis focuses on changes made to the four sisters as a result of changes in social context. By showing how each sister’s central flaw is portrayed, it illustrates how the four sisters are characterised in the novel and film, and reveals the hardships with which they deal that contribute to their characterisation. This thesis draws on theory on bildungsromane and characterisation for its analysis. By comparing the characterisations of the protagonists in both works, this thesis demonstrates that Gerwig’s adaptation highlights the sisters’ struggles differently than Alcott’s novel, demonstrating how views on women’s position and their role has changed. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are updated for a 21st century audience, which is of importance because characters like Little Women’s protagonists may function as role models for many young viewers.