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.