full title · Little Women
author · Louisa May Alcott
type of work · Novel
genre · Sentimental novel; didactic novel; coming-of-age novel
language · English
time and place written · 1868–1869, Concord and Boston, Massachusetts
date of first publication · 1868–1869
publisher · Roberts Brothers
narrator · Omniscient. The narrator knows everything and provides analysis and commentary about the characters and their lives.
point of view · Third person. The narrator focuses on all the different characters in turn.
tone · Sympathetic and matter-of-fact; sometimes moralizing
tense · Past
setting (time) · During and after the Civil War, roughly 1861–1876
setting (place) · A small New England town
protagonist · Jo March
major conflict · The March sisters struggle to improve their various flaws as they grow into adults. Jo dreams of becoming a great writer and does not want to become a conventional adult woman.
rising action · The sisters begin to mature; they meet Laurie, their next-door neighbor; Meg gets married.
climax · Jo turns down Laurie’s marriage proposal, confirming her independence.
falling action · Beth dies, and Amy marries Laurie; Jo marries Professor Bhaer; Jo founds a school for boys and puts her writing career on hold.
themes · Women’s struggle between familial duty and personal growth; the danger of gender stereotyping; the necessity of work; the importance of being genuine
motifs · Music, teaching, language
symbols · Umbrellas, burning
foreshadowing · When Laurie presents the March sisters with a postbox, the narrator hints that love letters will pass through the box in years to come. Laurie’s promise to kiss Amy before she dies foreshadows their future marriage.