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Little Women

Louisa May Alcott

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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.

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