Why Greta Gerwig Changed Little Women’s Book Ending For Her Movie

Jo and Laurie in Little Women

Major spoilers ahead for Greta Gerwig's Little Women.

Louisa M. Alcott's Little Women is a beloved American novel that has been passed down across generations. And as such, it's also been adapted for the stage and screen a variety of times. The most recent comes to us from Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig, who assembled a stellar cast to bring Little Women to life again. Gerwig goes with a non-linear approach for the movie, and also makes a big change to the ending. And now she's explained to CinemaBlend exactly why she made that change.

The new (Golden Globe nominated) Little Women movie makes a big change to protagonist Jo's ending. Because rather than marrying Mr. Bhaer, she remains single and runs her school. This in stark juxtaposition to the novel's ending, which sees her wed and have kids. CinemaBlend's Hannah Saulic had the chance to speak with Greta Gerwig and the cast of Little Women about this change, and you can check out her conversation with both Gerwig and star Saoirse Ronan below.

That certainly gives new context to the movie's conclusion. In addition to making a new narrative choice, it seems Greta Gerwig was aiming to craft an ending for Little Women that would properly honor both its lead character, and author. Because Louisa May Alcott didn't want Jo March to get married, with it being at the behest of her publisher at the time. The year was 1869, and it was a cleaner ending to see her end up happy and settled with a man.

The new Little Women handles this change to the story expertly, with Greta Gerwig crafting a compelling final scene between Jo and her publisher. Saoirse Ronan's character argues with the man who would go on to print and distribute Little Women, as they negotiate the terms of their partnership. Along with ownership and publishing rights, they also spar over the ending. Eventually she concedes to the book's ending, while she's shown being fulfilled and unmarried alongside her family and school.

Little Women was written at least semi-autobiographically, with Louisa May Alcott basing the characters off of her own experience. Jo is based off the writer herself, who struggled wit personal and professional issues while growing up. Louis May Alcott never married, while she gave Jo a more traditional ending in her beloved novel.

Related: Little Women 2019: 12 Big Differences Between The Book And The Movie

Greta Gerwig clearly has history with Little Women, with she and Saoirse Ronan both explaining how jarring the novel's ending was prom an audience perspective. Since Louisa May Alcott originally didn't want Jo to get married and have kids, Gerwig took this chance to give the author her original wish. And in the process, satisfy any Little Women fans who weren't happy about the protagonist's traditional ending.

Considering how many times Little Women has been adapted as a movie, Greta Gerwig is breaking new ground, and the moviegoers who traveled to theaters to see her version. Combined with the movie's non-linear storytelling, and Gerwig certainly put her own twist on the iconic novel. We'll just have to see how it performs this Awards Season.

Little Women is in theaters now. Be sure to check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.