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, ...view middle of the document...
As Alcott grew up in the 1800’s, she could not get over her disappointment in not being born a boy. Opportunities for women were limited. The Civil War started in 1861, and Alcott immediately wanted to go and fight in it. As most transcendentalists of the time did, she also supported the Northern side against slavery. Of course since she was a female, she was not allowed to join the military. Instead, she signed up as a Union nurse, and was stationed in Washington D.C. After the Civil War, she became an active supporter of the women’s suffrage movement in the US, who’s goal was to extend the rights of women. Alcott expresses her feminist beliefs through the character Jo March in Little Women.
Alcott’s father, Amos Alcott, was not a very responsible husband or father of Alcott and her sisters. Alcott had three sisters, an older sister named Anna, and two younger ones, named Lizzie and Abba May. Lizzie passed away at 22 years old from scarlet fever. Alcott names her characters in Little Women similar to her own sisters names. This story is based of Alcott’s real childhood experiences with her sisters.
Although Amos was a keen transcendentalist philosopher, teacher and abolitionist, he failed to provide money for his family’s support, so Louisa’s mother took on much of the responsibility. Later in Louisa’s life, she took on much of the burden. This affected her writing in a way that she was responsible from a young age, and had an open mind on things because of her father’s teachings since she was young.
Meg March the oldest of the sisters in Little Women, constantly wishes for money and luxuries. Meg is named after her mother, who she is very similar to, because she is conservative, good and kind. She is the kind of person who, in order to please others, tries to change herself, a traight that comes into play when she allows her sisters to dress her up like a rich girl. Her kindly personality shines through when she becomes a housewife, pretends to like politics because the man she loves likes them, and proceeding to forget about her dreams about luxury because her husband, who she loves, is poor.
Meg doesn’t have the dominant spirit of her other sisters, Jo and Amy. Being a wife to a poor man, she apologizes and blames things on herself that aren’t hers to be blamed. Meg is easily manipulated by others, and because of that she is seen as conforming to the normality and expectations of a woman in her time period.
Beth March, the third March sister, like Meg is very shy and quiet. Beth’s primary purpose is the bring out the best in others, finding gentleness and calming influences on her sisters, even Jo. She struggles with small flaws, such as the fact that she never wants to do any of the housework she’s been told to do. Like Meg, she is always trying to please people. Quiet Beth is close to outgoing Jo, surprisingly, and her calming personality is something that helps Jo. As Alcott’s real life sister Lizzie passed away...