Meg is the eldest and on the brink of love. Then there's tomboy Jo who longs to be a writer. Sweet-natured Beth always puts others first, and finally there's Amy, the youngest and most precocious. Together they are the March sisters. Even though money is short, times are tough and their father is away at war, their infectious sense of fun sweeps everyone up in their adventures - including Laurie, the boy next door. And through sisterly squabbles, their happy times and sad ones too, the sisters discover that growing up is sometimes very hard to do. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is one of the twenty wonderful classic stories being reissued in Puffin Classics in March 2015.
Louisa May Alcott (1832-88) was brought up in Pennsylvania, USA. She turned to writing in order to supplement the family income and had many short stories published in magazines and newspapers. Then, in 1862, during the height of the American Civil War, Louisa went to Georgetown to work as a nurse, but she contracted typhoid. Out of her experiences she wrote Hospital Sketches (1864) which won wide acclaim, followed by an adult novel, Moods. She was reluctant to write a children's book but then realized that in herself and her three sisters she had the perfect models. The result was Little Women (1868) which became the earliest American children's novel to become a classic
Little Women is an American classic, adored for Louisa May Alcott's lively and vivid portraits of the endearing March sisters: talented tomboy Jo, pretty Meg, shy Beth, temperamental Amy. Millions have shared in their joys, hardships, and adventures as they grow up in Civil War New England, separated by the war from their father and beloved mother, "Marmee," blossoming from "little women" into adults. Jo searches for her writer's voice and finds unexpected love...Meg prepares for marriage and a family...Beth reaches out to the less fortunate, tragically...and Amy travels to Europe to become a painter. Based on Louisa May Alcott's own Yankee childhood, Little Women is a treasure -- a story whose enduring values of patience, loyalty, and love have kept this extraordinary family close to the hearts of generation after generation of delighted readers.
1. In the first two chapters, the girls use John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress as a model for their own journey to becoming "little women." What was Alcott trying to say by using such a strongly philosophical piece of literature as the girls' model?
2. What purpose does Beth's death serve? Was Alcott simply making a sentimental novel even more so, or was this a play on morality and philosophy? Do you think Beth was intended to be a Christ figure?
3. Consider the fact that Beth will never reach sexual maturity or marry. What do you think this says about the institution of marriage and, more important, about womanhood?
4. Consider Jo's writing: While we are treated to citations from "The Pickwick Portfolio" and the family's letters to one another, we are never presented with an excerpt from Jo's many literary works, though the text tells us they are quite successful. Why is this?
5. Do you find it surprising that once Laurie is rejected by Jo, he falls in love with Amy? Do you feel his characterization is complete and he is acting within the "norm" of the personality Alcott has created for him, or does Alcott simply dispose of him once our heroine rejects him?
6. Some critics argue that the characters are masochistic. Meg is the perfect little wife, Amy is the social gold digger, and Beth is the eternally loving and patient woman. Do you believe these characterizations are masochistic? If so, do you think Alcott could have characterized them any other way while maintaining the realism of the society she lived in? And if this is true, what of Jo's character?
7. The last two chapters find Jo setting aside her buddingliterary career to run a school with her husband. Why do you think Alcott made her strongest feminine figure sacrifice her own life plans for her husband's?
8. Alcott was a student of transcendentalism. How and where does this philosophy affect Alcott's writing, plot, and characterization?
9. Do you believe this is a feminine or a feminist piece of work?
"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."
Louisa May Alcott (quote from Little Women
Alcott's standard gets bumped up to a Penguin Deluxe, complete with illustrated front and back covers, French flaps, and ragged paper. Very nice. Next time you're ordering new copies of LW, get this one.
Gr 5 Up
Louisa May Alcott's 19th-century classic is the story of the March sisters-Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth-who live with their beloved Marmee, while their father is away serving as a chaplain during the Civil War. They must make many sacrifices during this time, but they learn that happiness is not dependent on riches, and trouble doesn't last forever. Rebecca Burns's homey, perfectly modulated voice easily moves from one character to another, and her narration for the male characters is credible. The CDs include tracking every three minutes. The companion ebook features automatic start-up, keyword searching, PDF printable format, table of contents, and index. A great choice for classes studying New England family life during the Civil War period-Kathy Miller, Baldwin Junior High School, Baldwin City, KS"I try to get every girly girl to read this one because those four sisters are so real. Everybody's favourite is Jo, the tomboy who wants to be a writer" - Jacqueline Wilson -