The Development of the Hero in Little Women

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Louisa May Alcott furnishes a probing look at the hero through recognition of how the imaginary hero of romantic fiction is not always the ideal while bringing the reader to see the heroic in the everyday lives of four young women with the primary emphasis falling on Jo. In the chapter, "Castles in the Air," as each of the characters envisions the distant future (ten years hence anyway), Jo remarks, "I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle-- something heroic or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day" (Alcott 133). As the book progresses, many references are made to show the shallowness that has begun to be associated with the heroic. ". . . Laurie heroically shut his eyes . . ." (Alcott 264). "Fred is not my model hero" (Alcott 294). Finally, Jo focuses the conflict in recognizing the heroic when she reaches the point of realizing that she "preferred imaginary heroes to real ones, because when tired of them, the former could be shut up in the tin kitchen till called for, and the latter were less manageable" (Alcott 298). With Jo March, Alcott presents a modern young woman in a day when women were very much relegated to a specific role within the home. From the opening pages of the book, Jo exhibits a unique strength of character that refuses to be molded to the traditional form. She longs to be a boy, primarily because of the opportunities available to the male in society. However, taking her unusual family upbringing and applying it to Jo's determination to be different creates an individual who is heroic in her strength and courage to stand out in society and her ability to share that quality with othe... ... middle of paper ... ...he wife and mother. Rather, she insists that she will carry her share and help in the earning of the home as a condition of marriage (Alcott 438). Jo's journey to the heroic ultimately leads her to a role where her life is spent in giving herself to others, shaping them to be themselves while still maintaining proper place in the grand scheme of things. Through her characterization, a hero is fully developed as one with the strength of character that allows one to be uniquely different while seeking always to help others in the journey of life by placing them ahead of oneself. Jo's heroic act that will not be forgotten after she's dead, only a dream as a young lady, is realized through the lives she touches and the future generations she ultimately affects. Works Cited Alcott, Louisa. Little Women. Intro. Ann Douglas. NY: Signet Classic, 1983.

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