is a needful and precious thing,—and, when well used, a noble thing,—but
I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive
for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved,
contented, than queens on thrones, without self- respect and peace.
Marmee speaks these words in Chapter 9, after
Meg has returned from a two-week stay at the Moffats’ home. Marmee
tells Meg that she does not want any of her daughters to marry for
material comforts, as was suggested by a guest at the Gardiners’.
At a moment in history when women’s futures hinged solely on their
choice of a husband, Marmee’s statement is very compassionate and
unusual. After all, the other guests at the party easily assume
that Meg must be intending to marry for money.
Alcott does not completely sanction Marmee’s statement. Little Women depicts
marrying poor as a serious burden for a nineteenth-century woman
to bear. One should not marry for money, but at the same time, quarrels
and stress come about from marrying a poor man. Alcott does not
depict romantic love without mentioning the practical reality of
living with little money. The daughter of an improvident father,
she knew firsthand the worry of having to depend on someone else
for a living.