Skip to content

Reading Little Women as an adult.

Little Women remains Louisa May Alcott’s best-known work. Its charm and innocence continue to attract readers, despite the fact that the social and domestic reality portrayed is very different from contemporary domestic life. Jo March is regarded as one of the most complete, self-assured, and best-loved characters in children’s literature. If truth be told, many boys find that they can identify with her almost as easily as girls can. The author dared to give her characters faults such as selfishness, vanity, temper, and timidity —qualities never seen before in such young characters.

A little bit of information about the author:

Louisa May Alcott Biography(1832–1888)

Louisa May Alcott was an American author who wrote under various pseudonyms and only started using her own name when she was ready to commit to writing. Her novel Little Women gave Alcott financial independence and a lifetime writing career. She died in 1888.

Early Life

Famed novelist Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832, in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Alcott was a best-selling novelist of the late 1800s, and many of her works, most notably Little Women, remain popular today. 

Alcott was taught by her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, until 1848, and studied informally with family friends such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker. Residing in Boston and Concord, Massachusetts, Alcott worked as a domestic servant and teacher, among other positions, to help support her family from 1850 to 1862. During the Civil War, she went to Washington, D.C. to work as a nurse.

Acclaimed Author: ‘Little Women’

Unknown to most people, Alcott had been publishing poems, short stories, thrillers and juvenile tales since 1851, under the pen name Flora Fairfield. In 1862, she also adopted the pen name A.M. Barnard, and some of her melodramas were produced on Boston stages. But it was her account of her Civil War experiences, Hospital Sketches (1863), that confirmed Alcott’s desire to be a serious writer. She began to publish stories under her real name in Atlantic Monthly and Lady’s Companion, and took a brief trip to Europe in 1865 before becoming editor of a girls’ magazine, Merry’s Museum.

The great success of Little Women gave Alcott financial independence and created a demand for more books. Over the final years of her life, she turned out a steady stream of novels and short stories, mostly for young people and drawn directly from her family life. Her other books include Little Men (1871), Eight Cousins (1875) and Jo’s Boys (1886). Alcott also tried her hand at adult novels, such as Work (1873) and A Modern Mephistopheles (1877), but these tales were not as popular as her other writings.

Quick Summary: Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March are four sisters living with their mother in New England. Their father is away serving as a chaplain in the Civil War, and the sisters struggle to support themselves and keep their household running despite the fact that the family recently lost its fortune. In the process, they become close friends with their wealthy neighbor, Theodore Laurence, known as “Laurie.” As the girls grow older, each faces her own personal demons and moral challenges. Jo, our beloved protagonist, must tame her tomboyish ways and learn to be more ladylike while pursuing her ambition to be a great writer. Meg, the oldest, must put aside her love of wealth and finery in order to follow her heart. Beth, the shy one, must conquer her bashfulness, while Amy, the youngest, has to sacrifice her aristocratic pride. The girls are guided in their personal growth by their mother, “Marmee,” and by their religious faith. The family’s tight bonds are forever changed when Meg falls in love with John Brooke, Laurie’s tutor. Meg and John marry and begin a home of their own, quickly populated by twins Daisy and Demi. Another marriage seems imminent when Laurie reveals to Jo that he has fallen in love with her, but she declares that she cannot care for him in the same way. Jo goes to New York as the governess for a family friend, Mrs. Kirke, experiencing the big city and trying her hand as a professional writer. Meanwhile, Amy travels through Europe with her wealthy Aunt Carroll and cousin Flo, nurturing her artistic talent. Separately, Laurie goes to Europe accompanied by his grandfather. He pursues his passion for music and tries to forget Jo. While in New York, Jo meets German expatriate Professor Bhaer, whose intellect and strong moral nature spark her interest. Across the Atlantic, Laurie and Amy discover that they lack the genius to be great artists, but that they make an excellent romantic pairing. When Beth, who has never been strong, dies young, the sorrow of their loss solidifies Amy’s bond to Laurie. Back in the States, Jo returns home to care for her bereaved parents and learns to embrace her domestic side. All the loose ends are tied up as Jo and Professor Bhaer marry and start a boarding school for boys, while Amy and Laurie marry and use the Laurence family wealth to support struggling young artists. The Brooke, Bhaer, and Laurence households flourish, and the novel ends with a birthday party for Marmee, celebrating the extended March family connections and the progress of Jo’s boarding school, Plumfield.

A Few Thought Provoking Questions:

  • Do you think the traditional “little women” roles celebrated in Louisa May Alcott’s classic are outdated in today’s society? What ideals do you believe are timeless?
  • Who is your favorite character in Little Women, and why? Which character do you most identify with, and why?
  • When Jo takes Beth to the seashore for one last visit before the younger sister dies, Beth compares each of the four March sisters to birds—Jo is strong and untamed like a gull, Meg is a turtledove, which represents love, Amy is a beautiful and lively lark, while she herself is a peep, a bird that stays close to the shore. Do you think Beth’s comparisons were accurate? If you compared yourself to a bird, what species would you be?
  • The complexities of sibling relationships—a jumble of childhood games, petty squabbles, family traditions, deep frustrations, and fierce loyalty—play out on every page of the novel. What moments best or most precisely illustrate the bonds between sisters?
  • What scenes from Little Women linger in your mind long after you have closed the book?

Please share your thoughts, questions and reviews with us! We would love to hear from you.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux