Little Women is a coming-of-age story that revolves around the lives of the four March sisters – Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy – as they navigate the challenges of adolescence, love, and societal expectations during the Civil War era. The film is based on a classic novel written by Louisa May Alcott.

Plot Summary

The movie Little Women is structured in a non-linear fashion, with the present timeline showing Jo March (played by Saoirse Ronan) living in New York and trying to establish herself as a writer. The flashbacks depict the sisters' childhood and early adulthood, focusing on their dreams, struggles, and relationships.

Jo's Journey

Jo is the central character of the story, an aspiring writer who faces the societal constraints imposed on women in the 19th century. Throughout the movie, she grapples with the idea of marrying for love versus financial security. Her relationship with Friedrich Bhaer (played by Louis Garrel), a German professor, becomes a significant aspect of her journey.

Meg's Marriage

Meg (played by Emma Watson) faces the challenges of being the eldest sister and yearns for a more affluent life. She marries John Brooke (played by James Norton), a poor tutor, and learns to navigate the complexities of marriage and parenthood.

Beth's Illness

Beth (played by Eliza Scanlen) is depicted as the gentle and musically gifted sister. However, her life takes a tragic turn when she contracts scarlet fever while caring for a poor family. Despite her recovery, the illness weakens her, leading to her eventual death.

Amy's Artistic Ambitions and Romance

Amy (played by Florence Pugh) is an aspiring artist who struggles with her identity and societal expectations. She experiences unrequited love for Laurie (played by Timothée Chalamet), who eventually marries her sister Jo. Later in the story, Amy reconnects with Laurie during their travels in Europe, and their relationship develops into a romantic one.

Laurie's Unrequited Love and Marriage

Laurie, initially infatuated with Jo, is rejected by her. In a surprising twist, he ends up marrying Amy. This decision is initially met with resistance from Jo but is ultimately accepted as the characters grapple with the complexities of love and relationships.

Little Women’s Ending Explained

The movie concludes with a dual timeline – the present, where Jo is negotiating the terms of her book with a publisher, and the past, where the sisters are shown navigating their individual paths.

Jo's Decision

In the present, Jo negotiates with her publisher, Mr. Dashwood (played by Tracy Letts), who insists on a more conventional ending to her book, one that sees the protagonist, clearly based on Jo herself, getting married. However, Jo is adamant about maintaining the integrity of her story and insists on the heroine remaining unmarried.

This negotiation reflects Jo's journey throughout the film, where she grapples with societal expectations and her desire for independence. It reinforces the movie's central theme of women's autonomy and challenges traditional gender roles.

Amy and Laurie's Marriage

In the past timeline, Amy and Laurie's relationship takes center stage. Amy, in a heartfelt conversation with Laurie, defends her decision to marry him, emphasizing the practical aspects of their union and the fact that she had always loved him. The scene is a poignant exploration of love, maturity, and the compromises people make in relationships.

Jo's Realization

Back in the present, Jo has a moment of realization. She reflects on her journey, the choices she made, and the sacrifices she endured. It's a powerful moment of self-discovery, highlighting Jo's growth as an individual and as a writer. The film suggests that personal and professional fulfillment can coexist without conforming to societal expectations.

Beth's Legacy

The memory of Beth lingers throughout the ending. Her death serves as a reminder of life's fragility and the impact one person can have on others. Beth's legacy is portrayed through the piano she leaves to Jo, symbolizing the enduring influence of loved ones even after they're gone.

Meg's Contentment

Meg's storyline is also addressed in the conclusion. Despite facing financial challenges, Meg finds contentment in her family life. Her journey emphasizes that happiness can be found in simple joys and meaningful connections.

Jo's Unconventional Ending

The film concludes with Jo realizing her vision for her book. She decides to create an unconventional ending where the heroine remains unmarried but finds fulfillment and purpose in her independence. This choice serves as a powerful statement about the agency of women in shaping their own narratives, both in fiction and reality.

The ending of Little Women is rich in thematic depth and symbolism. Some of the key themes include:

Women's Autonomy

The movie strongly advocates for women's autonomy and the right to pursue their dreams and desires, even if they diverge from societal norms. Jo's insistence on an unconventional ending for her book reflects this theme.

Love and Relationships

The film explores different facets of love and relationships, from Jo's resistance to conventional marriage to Amy and Laurie's pragmatic union. It challenges the romantic ideals prevalent in literature of that era and presents a more nuanced view of love and companionship.

Legacy and Memory

Beth's legacy and the impact of her brief life on the remaining sisters underscore the theme of legacy and the enduring influence of loved ones. The piano she leaves to Jo becomes a poignant symbol of this legacy.

Artistic Expression

The movie celebrates artistic expression, particularly through Jo's journey as a writer. Her negotiation with the publisher becomes a metaphor for the struggle artists face in maintaining their artistic integrity while navigating commercial demands.


The film's exploration of themes such as women's autonomy, love, legacy, and artistic expression makes it a compelling and thought-provoking adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's timeless novel. The dual timeline structure, with the negotiation in the present and the resolution of past storylines, adds depth to the narrative, allowing the audience to reflect on the characters' growth and choices.

Greta Gerwig's direction, coupled with strong performances from the cast, brings the characters to life and infuses the story with contemporary relevance. The ending serves as a testament to the enduring appeal of Little Women and its ability to resonate with audiences across different generations.