Little Women

by: Louisa May Alcott

Symbols

Main ideas Symbols
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Umbrellas

In Little Women, umbrellas symbolize the protection a man offers a woman. Before Meg and John Brooke get married, Jo gets angry at Mr. Brooke’s umbrella. It seems Jo is angry that Mr. Brooke is going to take care of her sister. At the end of the novel, Professor Bhaer extends his umbrella over Jo, and her acceptance of its coverage symbolizes that she is ready to accept not only his love and protection, but also the idea that men are supposed to offer women love and protection.

Burning

Little Women is filled with images of burning that simultaneously represent writing, genius, and anger. At a party, Jo wears a dress with a burn mark on the back, which symbolizes her resistance to having to play a conventional female role. In anger, Amy burns Jo’s manuscript after Jo will not let her come to a play. Whenever Jo writes, her family describes her inspiration as genius burning. At the end of the novel, Jo burns her sensationalist stories after Professor Bhaer criticizes that style of writing. This fire seems to destroy her earlier self as well, as it marks the end of the fiery Jo of the novel’s beginning.