I went to see Little Women with my wife at the movies last night. There were three men at the theater, including me, and I knew one of the other two. I don’t aim to review it, but it was very good, and there was one subplot that affected me deeply.
The Little Women of whom the title speaks are the March sisters: Josephine (Jo), Meg, Amy, and Beth. Their family is poor in the sense that they have a cleaning lady but they don’t have the sort of things their wealthy peers have. Their next door neighbor ( a Mr. Laurence) is, in particular, quite wealthy. Mr. Laurence had a daughter who played the piano. She died young, and he has her piano sitting unused in his mansion of a house. Beth March plays the piano, so Mr. Laurence invites her over to play. He sits at the base of the staircase, just out of her line of sight, and listens to her while she plays.
Those of us above a certain age understand that he is sitting there remembering his daughter. Love does not cease when the object of it dies; it lasts forever.
When Beth March dies young because of problems when her heart following scarlett fever, Mr. Laurence stands in the road that separates their houses. He is caught at an equilibrium as it were: He must go to be with the family in their grief, but he cannot bear to enter the house without Beth there. He has lost his daughter a second time. Jo March provides his strength and leads him in.
I like the insight shown in that scene. I never read the book, so I don’t know whether it is due to Louisa May Alcott or the makers of this movie, but it captured something real: Men with their emotions.
Women are often depicted as being creatures controlled by emotion--I can’t say because I am not one--but men fight a battle themselves.
While I haven’t read Little Women, I have read Lonesome Dove (by Larry McMurtry) and watched the old miniseries as well. The character Captain Woodrow Call (played by Tommy Lee Jones in the series) personifies discipline in pursuit of controlling fierce, violent emotion. He appears to be cold and unfeeling, but this is a facade he has built. McMurtry uses Call’s horse the Hell-Bitch to symbolize the violent emotion within Call. Call controls the horse but doesn’t fully break it. Few other men can ride it.
Mr. Laurence is a more civilized man than Call, and he hasn’t built the cold facade. He allows himself to feel, so he requires the strength that he draws from Jo March at this point.
There are two people from the Bible who also come to mind at this point: Joseph the son of Jacob and King David. They are both very controlled men.
Joseph toys with and tests the brothers who sold him into captivity, but there comes a moment when he can no longer maintain control. He cries to his brothers: “Is my father still alive?”
When David’s child by Bathsheba is sick, David weeps, fasts, and prays trying to persuade God to spare the child’s life; when the child dies anyway, he cleans himself up and goes on with life. This is controlled and, some might even say, cold.
But when David’s son Absalom is killed while being in rebellion against his father, David is absolutely distraught: “And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
The mask is removed; the emotion is released.
For my part, I cry in the movies. My face was wet as Mr. Laurence was stuck out on that road having lost his daughter a second time through the death of Beth. I didn’t need a mask because it was dark in the theater. Maybe that’s the reason they keep the lights down.
Anyway, that’s what I got for the price of a movie ticket.
— Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.