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The Roles of Women During the 1800´s Essay

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The roles of women and how they were treated during the 1800’s are portrayed throughout Little Women, while also demonstrating how the main characters deal with these conformity norms. Through the 4 sisters, Alcott depicts different ways they dealt with being a woman during nineteenth-century expectations. While two conform, the other two attempt to rebel against the standards. Alcott doesn’t imply that one way is necessarily better than the other, but she shows that one is more realistic than the other.
Author Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1832, which is the same time setting she set the book in. She was raised in a small town north of Boston, called Concord, which was also home to many famous writers of the time who greatly influenced her and her writing. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne were neighbors to the Alcott family. All of these writers were part of the transcendentalist movement during the New England Renaissance.
During the 1800’s, especially in the beginning, the American society was run by males. They were seen superior to women in nearly every way. They got the best education, they were paid the most, they had the only voice in the family, and they had complete control over women. Especially at home, women weren’t respected. The father was the highest voice and everybody was expected to listen to the father. A woman’s roles at home included taking care of the children, cooking, cleaning and doing whatever her husband asked of her. A women’s money belonged to her father if she wasn’t married. If she was married, they money belonged to her husband. It was because of these reasons that men looked for wealthy women to marry so they could have more mon...


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At the time of the writing of the novel, society and women’s rights were slowly increasing. Through the four March sisters, Alcott depicts ways that women dealt with the norms of the time. Meg, marries young and creates a family; Beth is dutiful to her sisters and parents; Amy focuses on herself and her own beliefs and likes, which Amy does at first, but later settles into life as a lady; and Jo’s struggle to find a professional life, but also live a dutiful family life. While Meg and Beth conform to the 1800’s women expectations, Jo and Amy attempt to break away, and be individuals. Eventually, they both settle into a customary way of life. Alcott doesn’t suggest that one woman is stronger or weaker, nor does she suggest that in the end you must always rebel or conform, but she does recognize that one is more realistic than the other.





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