If anybody had asked Amy what the greatest trial of her life was, she would have answered at once, ‘My nose.’
Amy is perceptive of fashions. She wants to look and act like the most popular girls her age. Whereas Meg’s vanity stems from wanting wealth and fine things, Amy wants to look beautiful as a means of social currency. She wants to be the cream of the crop in her community. Her sensibility to fashion extends far enough that she wishes her nose were shaped more like the most desirable silhouette of the time. When she matures and learns to refine this keen sense of observation, Amy is able to use it to find and highlight the talents of others around her.
Talent isn’t genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing. I won’t be a common-place dauber, so I don’t intend to try anymore.
Of the March sisters, Amy is perhaps the most ambitious. She and Jo both crave external recognition and success for their efforts, but Amy is the one who wants to acquire money, status, and a position of noteworthiness. When she encounters challenges, she takes a rational and critical approach to herself and takes whatever approach she believes is most likely to grant her success. In Rome, she realizes the old masters are better artists than her, so she immediately concludes she will need to do something else with her life if she intends to make a great name for herself. She is willing to put in the effort toward something if she thinks she will succeed, but she will not pursue something she believes is futile. Her decisions are attempts to be practical, as opposed to Jo’s resolute idealism.
You laugh at me when I say I want to be a lady, but I mean a true gentle-woman in mind and manners, and I try to do it as far as I know how.
Amy’s desire to be a lady could easily turn her into a snob who looks down on others or a permanently jealous person for a position she does not have. Instead, Amy’s search for refinement and gentility leads her to be kinder, more honest, and more gracious to the people around her. As a child, she is not above petty retribution or ploys for popularity, but she learns that she is more respectable and respected when she lets her talents and kindness speak to her truly ladylike nature.