“Rich or poor, we will keep together and be happy in one another.”
I think it’s safe to say that everyone who enjoys this book desperately wishes they could be part of the March family (which makes Laurie so incredibly relatable at times). This is a great read for the Christmas season, but honestly holds up any time of year – it’s cozy, it’s funny, it has so much heart. I figured the best way to review it would be to break it down by character – particularly the March sisters and Marmee.
“Call yourself any names you like; but I am neither a rascal nor a minx, and I don’t choose to be called so.”
Meg’s story is incredibly important – she’s the only sister who dreams of what’s “expected” of her. And for Meg, she gets exactly what she wants and ends up thriving. Alcott outlines some marriage and parenthood struggles in Meg’s life, but they’re relatable – she and her husband grow closer as a couple because of them, and Meg ends up living a lovely life that she’s proud of.
“I like good, strong words, that mean something,” replied Jo.
Many of us avid readers (and writers) identify with Jo – she’s technically the “main” character of the novel, and her story is the most interesting (arguably tied with Amy). Jo’s journey from bookworm tomboy to published writer has you rooting for her every step of the way. I will admit, i’m not really pleased with how her story ends (however, I am glad she doesn’t end up with Laurie) but I also understand why Alcott made the choices she did for Jo given the time period (and Little Women is loosely based on Alcott’s life).
“If Jo is a tom-boy, and Amy a goose, what am I, please?” asked Beth, ready to share the lecture. “You’re a dear, and nothing else,” answered Meg.
Dear, sweet Beth. The unfairness of her story has always been apparent to me. After contracting scarlet fever (that she was exposed to only because she was being kind and helping others), she spends the rest of the book sitting idly by, while her sisters grow up, travel and marry. Somehow, Beth’s faith and sweetness never change – she gladly welcomes death and worries most about how her loved ones will carry on once she’s gone.
“I want to be great, or nothing.”
I think Amy gets a lot of unfair criticism for being the “worst” March sister. Amy grows the most throughout the novel – she starts as a sometimes silly, often selfish 12-year-old girl, but she grows into a thoughtful, smart and determined young woman. Amy seems the most “real” to me, because she has the most to learn.
“Once upon a time there were four girls, who had enough to eat, and drink, and wear, a good many comforts and pleasures, kind friends and parents, who loved them dearly, and yet they were not contented.”
Marmee is, in my opinion, the best literary mother of all time. Although her character does take a bit of a backseat to the four sisters, her influence is evident. She has managed to raise four kind, intelligent, caring girls – the lessons she teaches them still (mostly) hold up today, and I always love coming across her nuggets of wisdom while reading.
At its core, Little Women is truly a feminist piece of literature (there are some antiquated thoughts and statements in the text, but they are merely a symptom of their time). There are timeless life lessons about growing up, family, friendship and individuality.