“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual′s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is” - Carl Jung
Each of us has the capacity for virtue or vice, and our daily actions reflect the combination of both. In literature, however, people are sometimes depicted as being completely one or the other, giving us inaccurate views of human nature. We identify better with characters who are more like us--neither completely good nor bad. Meg, Jo and Amy March in Alcott’s Little Women do not flatly portray complete good or complete evil, but their realistic dual natures increase their believability and intensify their moral influence on us.
This character duality is first evident in Margaret, the eldest sister, as we receive a description detailing her looks and countenance. Meg is “very pretty” with “large eyes, plenty of soft, brown hair, a sweet mouth, and white hands, of which she was rather vain” (Alcott 5). This description leads the reader through sweetness and innocence, finishing with a flaw. From the beginning, her vanity glares at us as her most obvious fault. Yet, in “spite of her small vanities, Margaret had a sweet and pious nature, which unconsciously influenced her sisters” (LW 16). Contrasting the negativity in Meg’s personality is a kind and remarkable side. Both vanity and kindness represent themselves throughout the novel as we evaluate the effects this duality has upon our judgment.
Leading the novel, Meg’s vanity manifests itself in her desires for Christmas. Times are difficult and money is tight, yet Meg has ideals of her own regarding the Christmas money. She explains to ...
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... The implications of the novel may not fully impact us until later, after we take the time to examine the flaws and strengths we see in Meg, Jo, and Amy. Like us, these three March girls are completely human--possessing dual natures of both good and evil--and because of their realistic natures, they have a greater moral influence on us. Once we fully examine the characters, we examine ourselves and have the responsibility to act on the characters’ influence. We can learn willingly from these characters and use their experiences to recognize our faults, like the March girls who are always quick to note their own shortcomings.
1 All further references to Alcott’s Little Women are to the edition listed in the Works Cited and will be labeled simply LW followed by page numbers.
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. New York: Signet, 1983.
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