Jo March – Felicity Merriman
In an 1884 interview, Louisa May Alcott said:
I have often thought that I may have been a horse before I was Louisa Alcott. As a long-limbed child I had all a horse’s delight in racing through the fields, and tossing my head to sniff the morning air. Now, I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul, put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body.
Yeah, this one’s a gimme. There’s really no other choice for Jo. Meet Felicity is his bread and butter: a plucky rapscallion steals a boy’s breeches to venture into the dead of night and liberate an abused horse from a tannery. Jo reads this book and wonders why he didn’t think of it first. He steals a pair of Laurie’s breeches and wanders around town looking for horses to rescue until Marmee scrapes together enough money to get him the damn doll for Christmas. (Or, well, Grandpa Laurence donates the doll, anyway.) Jo changes Felicity out of the rose-patterned dress, puts on the Riding Breeches & Hat, and never dresses the doll in another outfit. He takes Felicity on so many adventures that her vinyl limbs get loose and can’t hold poses anymore. Jo begs and begs his parents for a horse and they’re like, “You can’t take care of one,” and Jo’s like, “Yes, I can! Please, please, I’ll be so careful!” and they’re like, “No, you don’t understand, your dad is a nineteenth century vegan and he thinks it’s immoral to allow animals to labor for human gain.” Jo gets so mad he tries to run away from home with a stick and bindle containing nothing but an apple, a hunk of bread, a wedge of cheese, and Felicity.
You could also make the case for Kit Kittredge. I think it’s important to understand that, though Jo is Kit, he would have Felicity. He doesn’t need a doll to enact a fantasy of working away at a novel up in an attic. He’s already doing that.
Meg March – Samantha Parkington
Samantha sits at the intersection of decadence and altruism. That’s where Meg is, too. Meg is very drawn to the story of this beneficent princess who showers love on the shabby little servant girl next door. In private moments, Meg will imagine that she is this servant girl, imagine Sam coming to whisk her away from All This, into a life of peppermint ice cream and puppies in prams. She’s rendered speechless with delight when the poor beleaguered Nellie O’Malley, and her two equally downtrodden younger sisters, are actually adopted into Samantha’s family. That’s all Meg’s ever wanted, really. She already has the sisters, but privately, silently, she yearns for a few more pretty dresses.
Amy March – Truly Me #88
There’s a girl in every family who’s like, “F*** the elaborate historical fiction, I want the one with pink hair and a dress covered in rainbow stars.” Amy March is irrefutably That Girl. She is not here to study. She is here to have a good and glamorous time. She’s initially on a mission to find a Truly Me doll with blonde hair and green eyes — you know, to be her twin — but as soon as she sees the technicolored wigs, it’s over. She waffles over the one with the hot-pink hair for a while, but eventually lands on this one, who’s got kind of a cotton-candy twist going on. She brushes that hair out every morning and every night. She names her Marabella because she thinks it sounds pretty. She takes her to school because the other girls are going to be so jealous and when the teacher is like, “Didn’t I ban American Girl dolls?” Amy drops out. Nothing comes between her and Marabella.
Beth March – Kirsten Larson
Beth, who canonically loves dolls, would struggle to pick a favorite. She would pore over the catalogue. Agonize over it. Every time she came close to making a decision about Which Doll, she would immediately feel shot through with shame, disloyal to all the others. She has to read all of the books before finally choosing, but in the end, she goes with Kirsten. She sees herself in Marta, is the thing; here’s a young girl with a long and grievous illness, and here’s Kirsten, holding her hand for as long as she can.
Laurie Laurence – Josefina Montoya
It starts when Laurie’s over at the Marches’ house, leafing through their little library. She picks up Meet Josefina; she’s drawn into the story of a young girl grieving her mother, taking to a piano to let her feelings out. She sees a lot of herself in Josefina — except, crucially, that Josefina has a bevy of sisters, and Laurie does not. She sets down the book, dejected. She returns her attention to the room. To Jo and Meg, Beth and Amy — all playing with their dolls, all waving at Laurie to come and join in. She blinks. Does she have sisters? When did that happen?
She tells her grandfather that she’d like to get Josefina for Jo, as a Christmas present. They have similar names, Laurie explains. Grandpa Laurence says, “How nice.” Laurie gives Josefina to Jo. Jo accepts the gift. The doll lives in the playroom over at the Marches’ house. But they both know — everybody does — that Josefina is Laurie’s, and Laurie’s alone.