Little Women

By. Louisa May Alcott


The genre of Little Women is fiction and coming-of-age. Although the aspects of this story could happen and are realistic for its time period, it is not based on a true story. The story also follows Beth, Meg, Jo, and Amy through their young adult lives in New England during the Civil War era.


There are many different themes in Little Women: femininity, ambition, care. For me, however, the most profound theme in Little Women is love. In this novel there are many different aspects of love. All four of the sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) care very much for her mother. In the first part of the novel, the girls are very poor and cannot afford much for Christmas so they agreed they wouldn't get each other a present. Instead the four girls each took all of the money they had and bought their mom new four different presents. Each of the girls find the love of their life, except for Beth, and marries. There are many connections of love in this book between the sisters, between the parents and their daughters, and a romantic one with each of the girls' admirer.


The protagonist of the story is Jo March. The story focuses on her and her sister but mostly follows Jo through her young adult life. The narrator mainly focuses on Jo's thoughts throughout the book, though it includes the other girls' ideas as well.


There are no physical antagonists in Little Women. However, the girls are constantly trying to perfect themselves throughout the story and Meg is always telling the girls that proper and polite way to do things. Later on in the book Beth becomes ill with scarlet fever and finds herself fighting that and the girls (especially Jo) are trying to help her fight it as well and manage to do so for a few years. Later, it is accepted and Beth, who's health has been severely weakened yet has been emotionally strengthened, dies peacefully in the springtime. In many ways, the antagonist is life.

Main Characters

The main characters are Meg, Beth, Jo, and Amy March who are sisters starting out in the story in their early to mid teenage years. The story mainly focuses on Jo's feelings and her journey specifically, though. Jo is a tom-boy who's real name is Josephine, however she thinks that this name is to 'girly'. The March sisters' father is off fighting in the civil war and Jo desperately wants to go help him fight, though she can't since it is the 1860's. Jo has several 'unladylike' qualities like her clumsiness and her hot temper. One of Jo's favorite pass times is reading and writing. Each Christmas she and her sisters put on a play (written by Jo) for their mother and friends. Because Jo is such a tomboy, she does not wish to be married and wants to do the opposite of the typical girl because she does not want to be separated from her family. While Beth is sick with scarlet fever Jo is the one who is by her bedside and helps her through the illness. After Beth's death she finds herself lonely unlike Meg and Amy who are now married. Now the tables turn and Jo finds herself becoming more feminine and wanting to get married. She then marries Mr. Bhaer and receives her Aunt March's mansion and lives the rest of her life there, happily married.

"I'm not! And if turning up my hair makes me one, I'll wear it in two tails till I'm twenty," cried Jo, pulling off her net, and shaking down a chestnut mane. "I hate to think I've got to grow up, and be Miss March, and wear long gowns, and look as prim as a China Aster! It's bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boy's games and work and manners! I can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy. And it's worse than ever now, for I'm dying to go and fight with Papa. And I can only stay home and knit, like a poky old woman!" Chapter 1, Page 5


The setting of Little Women is in a small city in New England during the Civil War. At different times throughout the novel the sisters travel to other places. Amy goes on a tour of Europe and Jo goes to New York. The first chapter of the book is at Christmas probably in the 1860's but no specific date is given. The book ends about fifteen years later. The time setting is most important to the story because the girls would not be the same person if they had not been raised to act the way people did in the late 1800's. Also, I think that not having there father there because of the Civil War had a big impact on the story, and on Jo especially since she did not have someone to be more masculine with her.


The main conflict Jo has is with herself towards the end of the novel. She is constantly fighting with herself and is not truly happy until the end when she marries and settles down. After Beth's death Jo finds herself lost and alone. She then goes against everything she had been her whole life, a tomboy. She finds herself becoming a young, independent, and somewhat feminine woman who is in need of someone to be with for the rest of her life. Jo does overcome this conflict and lives a happy life after Beth's death.


Personally, this is my favorite book. It was just a happy, fun book to read. It was also easy to read in that it flowed and you kept wanting to know what was going to happen in their life. I would recommend this book to anyone because I feel it is a classic that everyone should read because it has many good themes and is very well-written.