The novel Little Women by the American author Louisa May Alcott is a much-loved novel for both children and adults. The novel follows the lives of four characters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March, as they grew from children to women. The characters remain some of the most beloved characters in American literature because of their virtues. The novel takes place during the Nineteenth Century, and spans a period of years as the “little women” grow up. The characters are refreshingly honest characters and the book is a delightful story of the women and their challenges.
The characters are distinct characters because they all crave different things in life. While Beth is a homebody, Jo knew that she could never have a live where she stayed at home and did not seek adventure. Beth knows that she would only watch what the others did with their lives. She is shy and does not seek out excitement or the spotlight. Meg is the eldest and the sensible one. She is an excellent mother and is by far, the perfect example of a Nineteenth Century woman. She is a good mother. She strives to be a good wife, even if she struggles with this for a period of time. She is virtuous and moral. Jo is the wild one in the group. Her father and her mother recognize that she has a wild streak and they do not discourage it, which is rather shocking for the time period. She is intelligent and strong. It is important to recognize that the other characters are intelligent as well. However, Jo does not subdue her intelligence and wit. Rather, she expresses it openly and brazenly. She is also virtuous though, as are all the characters. Amy is the youngest, and is the spoiled one as the baby in the family. While Amy appears vain in the beginning of the novel, she grows in to a mature, responsible young woman. After she moves past her vanity, she also is kind and generous like her sisters.
The book changed my thinking because it showed that women were not the stereotypical “silent” woman of the Nineteenth Century. Modern day society has us believe that before the modern times, women were taught to be silent and not to be heard or have personalities. This book clearly shows that these were four distinct personalities. By all means, the parents were more liberal in their thinking than some other parents perhaps. The novel takes place in the Nineteenth Century in Concord, Massachusetts during the days of the Transcendentalist Movement. The novel’s views on women, as revealed by how the parents raised their children, are clearly a reflection of the thoughts of the great thinkers who lived in this time and place. It is interesting to discover that the movement was not merely a high-brow movement, but one that impacted everyday lives for the people in the region.
The saddest part in the book was the death of Beth due to scarlet fever. I found it rather sad to realize that she was dying when she became sick. It took a while for her to die; while she did not die from the disease immediately, it did eventually claim her life must too soon. I particularly was saddened to realize that we take it for granted that we do not die from these diseases anymore and do not appreciate vaccinations. These diseases and the tragedies they brought were a daily part of life at this time.
The characters change because they were growing up. It would be ludicrous to think that they would remain the same throughout the entire story. The author wanted the reader to see that people evolve, and that more importantly, relationships must evolve with them. This is seen with the relationship with Jo and Laurie. Laurie loved Jo, but eventually married Amy. Despite this, there was no difficulty. They all recognized that their relationships had shifted.