Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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It is interesting that Louisa May Alcott writes Little Women, in which she incorporates her own feelings and experiences. In fact, Jo's character is a near replication of Alcott herself. This makes the novel all the more interesting and personal, with the author speaking directly through the protagonist. Alcott writes the
novel from third person limited point of view, focusing chiefly on Josephine March. She develops the characters brilliantly throughout the entire work,
especially the March girls. Each sister is entirely unique, and yet so tightly bound together through their love for one another.
Little Women takes place during the Civil War in a small town in Massachusetts. The Marchs live a life of poverty with their father in the
war. Through this hardship, the girls: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, learn to be thankful in all circumstances and help those less fortunate than themselves.
The girls are very hopeful and dream of a brighter future. Each experiences adventures and pursues her own dreams. In the end, they are still gathered
as one family, grateful for their many blessings and for each other.
Josephine March is the protagonist, a tomboy who refuses to submit to the traditional image of ladyhood. This mindset is radically different from a
typical woman of her time. Jo possesses an innate passion for writing and literature in general. However, she loses much of her headstrong independent
nature through marrying Professor Bhaer. She gives up writing as he is a significant critic of her style. The reader is exposed to two the
dramatically different sides of Jo March. She is rebellious, fiery, and outspoken, wishing all the while that she was a man who could fight in the
war along side her dear father. Jo stresses and works to keep her family together, becoming extremely upset when Meg and Amy become married. With
their father absent, Jo assumes the male role as a father figure in many ways. Nevertheless, her flaws only make Jo a more lovable character. The
reader cannot help but adore Jo for her sheer humanity, much like Huck in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Amy is the youngest March sister. She is ladylike, artistic, and is regarded as the beauty of the March family. Often fantasizing a life of riches and
popularity, Amy's thirst for worldly pleasures represents the inner desires of man.

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Amy acts as a foil for Jo. Her attitudes and emotions completely
contrast with Jo's, emphasizing Josephine's character more so. Ladylike, artistic, Amy is regarded as the beauty of the March family. Despite Jo and
Amy's significant differences, both struggle to balance society's expectations and her natural, individual inclinations. Additionally, amidst
their flaws, both are lovably realistic characters.
Like Amy, Meg March also struggles with her girlish weakness for money and luxury. Ironically, Meg eventually marries a poor man whom she loves dearly.
This is Alcott's way of resolving her problem and teaching a lesson. Meg represents the conventional and the good lady of her time, much like her
mother, "Marmee". However, Meg has a tendency to conform into someone she is not, in order to please others. This is evident when she allows various
women to dress her as a rich girl prior to Annie Moffat's party. Throughout the novel, Alcott presents several images of burning and fire,
representing both anger and writing. Jo arrives at Annie Moffat's grand party with a large burned spot on the back of her dress, representing her
resistance to traditional, and perhaps unrealistic, female role in society.
When Jo forbids Amy to come to a play with her, Amy burns Jo's manuscript in a fit of rage. Jo, in turn, burns her own writings that are criticized by
her beloved Professor Bhaer. Initially, fire seems to destroy Jo, however, it succeeds in marking the end of the fiery girl she once was. Alcott also
emphasizes the use of umbrellas in the novel. This represents the protection a man gives to a woman. When Mr. Brooks offers his umbrella to Meg, Jo is
infuriated that a man cares for her sister. Again at the conclusion of the novel, Professor Bhaer holds his umbrella over Jo, offering his love and
protection to her. Stepping out of the rain and under his umbrella represents her acceptance. Alcott stresses that women need this and men must
be willing to fill this crucial role.
Through characters like Josephine March and Theodore Lawrence, Alcott shows the dangers of gender stereotyping. Jo goes against the standard gender
expectations. Elder women are constantly reprimanding Jo for her boyish habits and desires. The surrounding society says she should strive to be a
perfect lady, a social grace; things which Jo is definitely not. She wishes to join the army and earn a living, roles usually attributed to men only.
The March's neighbor, on the other hand, does not wish to be the conventional man either. He prefers his feminine-sounding nickname, Laurie,
to his more masculine name, Theodore. Laurie wishes to pursue his love of music, usually considered as a female pursuit. He faces major conflicts with
his old-fashioned grandfather, with whom he lives. Laurie is not manly enough for his grandfather, who puts tremendous pressure on Laurie to become
a businessman. Jo is not feminine enough for her sisters because she swears, soils her gloves, and speaks her mind at all times. Regardless of social
status, Alcott holds both Jo and Laurie in high esteem. She presents both as lovable characters, and seems to look down on Meg and Amy's conformity.
Perhaps Jo and Laurie's close friendship was unified through being both misunderstood and subject to this cruel stereotyping.


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