Josephine "Jo" Bhaer (née March) was the second-eldest March sister. She is seen as the protagonist of Little Women.
Aspects of Jo:
- Josephine March is based on Louisa May Alcott herself, which made the book semi-autobiography.
- When Josephine March was young, she played a vital part in teaching her mother, Mrs. March, a lesson. Meg and Jo were sick, and Jo, in particular, was being far too troublesome for her mother. "Marmee", as the girls affectionately called her, had previously shut her husband out of the nursery. Mr. March gently taught her as mothers, and all was well.
- Jo was a brave, determined, proud, and independent young lady. She is also has a sharp tongue and a temper. She did like adventure but would always prefer to stay at home. She does love a bit of luxury. She has a great passion for writing stories.
Jo was a reckless, daring child. She often wished she 'was a boy', and as consolation enjoyed whistling, using slang and ruffling up her clothes (which were a great trial to her, especially when she grew old enough to wear long skirts) - all symbols of masculinity at the time. Jo loved to read, and would spend hours doing so, reading books such as The Heir of Radcliffe, over which she ate apples and cried.
The attic was a favorite haunt of hers. The tiny kitchen, which was inhabited by many manuscripts, books, and rats (who nibbled her pages and tasted her pencils), was also a desk where she could be found at when in a 'vortex'. Jo had a 'scribbling suit', which consisted of a large black pinafore to absorb ink stains and a small black cap with a gray feather. When she was in different moods/states of story, it was at different angles. If she was at a difficult or despairing moment in her books, it was “plucked wholly off, and cast upon the floor”. At the start of the book she wishes to become a famous writer; at the end, she appears quite happy with her “boy’s school”.
Jo was the second oldest daughter of the March Family. At the beginning of 'Little Women', the family is experiencing temporary financial difficulties during the American Civil War. The March girls' father is acting in the army as a pastor and the older sisters are working to make some extra money to support the family. Jo has to assist her rich elderly great-aunt - Aunt March. When her father falls ill, Jo rather sells her hair, her 'only pride', than to beg her aunt for money for her mother's ticket to Washington, so she could go visit her husband.
The sisters made good friends with their neighbor, Theodore Laurence (Laurie). Jo nicknamed him Teddy and he would sometimes call her "my fellow." While Laurie studied at college, Jo kept working on her writing.
During that time, Laurie realized that he had fallen in love with Jo. Sensing his feelings, Jo confided in her mother, telling her that she loved Laurie but as she would love a brother and that she could not love him romantically. Laurie proposed marriage to her and she turned him down.
Jo decided she needed a break, and spent six months with a friend of her mother in New York City, serving as governess for her two children. The family ran a boarding house. She took German lessons with Professor Bhaer, who lived in the house. They soon became good friends. For extra money, Jo wrote stories without a moral, which disappointed him. They had an argument and when Jo learned that Beth’s health had seriously deteriorated, she left New York and devoted her time to the care of her dying sister.
On her invitation, Professor Bhaer arrived at the Marches' home and stayed for two weeks. On his last day, he proposed to Jo. Aunt March died, leaving Plumfield to Jo. She and Bhaer turned the house into a school for girls and boys and had two sons of their own.
Life at Plumfield
Of the four March sisters, Jo was easily the least traditional female character: she was vocal about thinking for herself, took pride in shunning female manners and fashion, and was unlikely to succumb to the pressures placed on women at that time. In fact, she was always disappointed that she was not born a man, and hated the very idea of the inevitability of becoming a full woman. This can be interpreted as a subconscious desire on their part that allows the freedoms that men can not enjoy at that moment, as well as, losing their own identity, once they embrace their femininity. One notable trait of Jo's would be her determination: when she set her mind on something, it was very difficult to dissuade her from doing it - an example of which would be her dedication to her stories. Her "fatal flaw" was her temper, which could be exceptionally bad and volatile when provoked to her breaking point, but as her guidance under her mother's wise teachings as well her own life experiences progressed, Jo learned how to properly control it.
As she matured, Jo gradually learned the importance of accepting her own gender and realized that becoming a full true woman did not mean losing her own unique identity. As her father pointed out after returning home, Jo was no longer the "son" he once knew: she had ceased to practice masculine habits such as whistling or talking slang, and even dressed, spoke, moved, and cared for her family - especially Beth - in a way that made her satisfied of the strong, helpful, and tender-hearted woman she was growing to be.
When Jo was first introduced as a fifteen-year-old, she was described as being very tall, thin, and tanned, with long clumsy limbs that gave her the impression of a colt. She also had all-seeing sharp grey eyes, a funny-looking nose, a firm mouth, round shoulders, and large hands and feet. Her long, thick hair was said to be her "one beauty", but it was usually bundled into a net, and she later cut and sold it to raise funds for her mother.
Later on, at eighteen, Jo was described as having matured into a curvaceous and graceful young woman, with thick curly hair that set off her head to advantage, rosy cheeks, and bright eyes.
- Louisa May Alcott's nickname is actually a masculine 'Lou' which makes Jo the perfect masculine nickname counterpart.
- Jo’s struggles with writing a publishable story is loosely based on Louisa May Alcott’s own struggles with becoming an author as a female in her time