Why does Alcott alternate between stories about each of the four March sisters throughout Little Women?
On the surface, the novel presents us with four different young girls so that every reader can identify with at least one of them and learn from their mistakes. In this way,
Many readers claim Jo as their favorite, and it seems as though Alcott may have been doing more in
Discuss the term “little women.” What does the term say about the status of American women in the 1860s?
A common term in the Victorian era, “little women” is used as a term of endearment in the novel. Mr. March calls his daughters “little women” in the letter he sends them from the war. On the surface, the term indicates the time between being a girl and being a woman, a time that the novel portrays in the lives of the March sisters. However, “little” is also a diminutive word. It is interesting that Alcott uses such a word when she seems interested in enlarging the status of women in general. The novel is also crowded with references to physical size: Jo, for example, is always described as large. She has big feet, and her hands stretch out Meg’s gloves. Additionally, Amy tells Jo that there is “more of [her]” than there is of Amy.
But beyond her physical dimensions, Jo dreams big, and throughout the story she is the sister with the most individual, creative promise. Conversely, Meg is a very conventional girl; likewise, her shoes are described as too tight, and her house with John as too cramped. Alcott mirrors Meg’s limitations with the limitations of her surroundings, suggesting that, in general, women are strictly confined. Through the use of the term “little women,” Alcott may be suggesting that a woman’s role is too small and confining for Jo, as doubtless it was for many women of her day.
Discuss the role of the Civil War in Little Women. Who goes to the war, and who wants to? Why does Alcott deliberately put such a big war so far in the background of her story?
The Civil War is never even mentioned by name in