Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

800 WordsApr 23, 20194 Pages
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, was published in 1868 and follows the lives, loves, and troubles of the four March sisters growing up during the American Civil War.1 The novel is loosely based on childhood experiences Alcott shared with her own sisters, Anna, May, and Elizabeth, who provided the hearts of the novel’s main characters.2 The March sisters illustrate the difficulties of girls growing up in a world that holds certain expectations of the female sex; the story details the journeys the girls make as they grow to be women in that world. Figures 1 and 2 in the Appendix are of Orchard House, the basis for the March family home, where the Alcotts lived. Little Women was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869; the…show more content…
Alcott was often inspired by familiar elements in her writing: Anna, her married sister, was the model for Meg, the family beauty; Elizabeth, who died at twenty-three, was the basis for Beth; May, Alcott’s strong-willed sister, was portrayed as Amy; Louisa depicted herself as Jo, the stubborn, fiery main character.10 Alcott freely corresponded with readers who addressed her as “Miss March” or “Jo,” and did not correct them.11 Meg, sixteen at the beginning of the book, is the oldest March sister. She is referred to as the beauty of the family and runs the household when her mother is absent. Meg fulfills the expectations for women of the time; she is already a nearly perfect “little woman” from the start.12 Jo, the principal character, is fifteen at the opening of the book; she is a willful and strong young woman, struggling to subdue her forceful personality. Her failures render her a more realistic, charming character.13 Beth, thirteen when the novel starts, is described as shy, musical, and gentle; she is easily the shyest March sister and the peacemaker of the family.14 The main loss of the novel is Beth’s passing; her “self-sacrifice” is ultimately the greatest in the novel – she gives up her life knowing that it had only “private, domestic meaning.”15 Amy, the youngest March sister, is twelve when the story begins. She is the artist of the family, and is described as a “regular snow-maiden” with golden, curly hair and blue eyes, “pale and slender”
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