This piece on the Enneagram types of the March sisters is sponsored by The Summer of Sunshine & Margot by Susan Mallery.
Twin sisters Sunshine and Margot are as different as chalk and cheese, but what they do have in common is a complete lack of luck when it comes to love. Emotionally stunted by a mother who dropped everything to follow boyfriend after boyfriend, the sisters have ever only had each other for support and to share a pint of post-heartache ice cream. When Margot, an etiquette specialist, is hired to work with Bianca, an icon from Hollywood’s Golden Age with romantic entanglements of her own, she and Sunshine become the daughters she never had, and their friendship teaches them how to embrace the quirks that make them unique, and how to demand the love they deserve just as they are.
I read Little Women, oh, about 10,000 times before I turned 13. It was my lodestar book. Louisa May Alcott taught me how to view the world and gave me four sisters to look up to. I was able to hold my hopes and dreams against those of the March sisters and see how I measured up. Was I gentle Beth? Adventurous Jo? Caretaker Meg? Or dramatic Amy? I was able to watch them interact and try them each on and see how I might like to grow up. They were sort of my version of a “Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong To?” quiz before anyone was writing them.
Fast-forward 20 years or so, and I have a new personality test obsession: the Enneagram. As a true Enneagram-obsessive, I definitely think it’s more useful and more…real? than a Buzzfeed quiz, but I do try not to take it quite so seriously.
So what is the Enneagram? It’s a system of understanding yourself and the people around you. It breaks people down into nine types, arranged in a something that looks a lot like a pentagram, but with nine points. (A nine-pointed star is called an enneagram , which is where the name comes from, something I just learned for you and which I honestly should have known before today, considering I’ve read, like, several books on the topic.)
Some people don’t like the Enneagram because they think it puts people into boxes, but I’ve found that it almost does the opposite. It lets me have a fuller understanding of people, and helps me be more gracious when before I might have been annoyed or frustrated. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to both my sisters about the Enneagram, and while they might be sick to death of it, it’s also helped me understand them better. (For more information on the Enneagram, The Enneagram Institute is a great place to start. I’ll be working from their definitions.)
Which is why I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Sisters Day on Book Riot than to figure out the Enneagram types of the second most important sisters in my life, the March sisters.
“The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic”
It might be a bit of a stereotype to make oldest siblings all into type ones, but this description fits Meg to a T. She is always striving to be good, striving to attain an ideal that she can never reach. She’s the first sister to commit to reading Pilgrims Progress every day to set an example for her sisters, and when she sets up housekeeping after her wedding, she has visions of a perfect household. When she is at her healthiest, she is up for adventures and scrapes just like the rest of the March girls (in Enneagram language, she goes to Seven in health), but when things aren’t going well, like when her jams explode and her husband brings home a colleague or her sisters burn off her hair (!!), she sinks into despair (goes to a 4 in stress).
“The Busy, Variety-Seeking Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Acquisitive, and Scattered”
I think everyone who reads Little Women wants to be Jo, myself included. Who doesn’t want to be the star of the show, the adventurous one who is always dreaming of the next thing? When Jo is frustrated, she is judgmental of those around her and bored of her life. She moves to a whole new city to avoid the pain of a breakup. But when she’s at her best, she’s the spirit behind all four sisters, the driving force behind all their games. Jo goes to a Five when she’s growing, which helps her harness her creative energy into her writing. She’s not a list-maker, but she is a self-starter who gets things done.
Beth: Type Two (The Helper)
“The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Generous, Demonstrative, People-Pleasing, and Possessive”
Oh Beth. Sweet Beth, who nurtured her sisters, her kittens, and her dolls with the same intense love and affection. She gave of herself to a fault, visiting the Hummels alone and contracting the illness that (spoiler alert) eventually ends her life. At her best, she’s the heart of the family, coaxing music out of their old piano and soothing everyone around her. I hate to even say anything about her worst, but even Beth fought her own quiet demons, wishing for more than she could have and feeling frustrated and alone when her sisters left their little nest.
“The Sensitive, Introspective Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental”
Amy has gotten a lot of flack over the years. She’s the selfish one, the one who burns her sister’s manuscript in retaliation over a small offense. She’s been defended admirably on this site, which I took as a comfort because I’ve always secretly identified with this dramatic little sister. Sure, I wanted to be Jo, but my dreams were always a little less “take to the sea and avenge the pirates” and a little more “take to the museum so we can look at art and talk about our feelings.” So, when I realized that we are both fours, things started to click into place. Yes, Amy is probably all the things everyone says, but she’s also a talented, sensitive artist who works hard to improve herself. When she matures and realizes that she’ll never have the talent to “make it” as an artist, she becomes a patron, developing her daughter’s skills and supporting Jo’s students. At her worst, she’s over-dramatic and manipulative (goes to Two in stress), but at her best she’s righteous and helpful, like a One.