Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a sweet and hopeful window into the lives of four sisters and their loved ones in 1860s America. While the purpose and inner workings of this novel are long debated, the overall effect and the general message is strong and heartwarming.
The protagonist and most well-developed character, Jo March, is a fierce example of female power and freedom in an oppressive time. Jo is unlike her three sisters, claiming that she never wants a husband or children, and that she will write in her attic for the rest of her life. She shortens her given name, Josephine, to Jo in a move to appear more masculine and thus, free. She turns her neighbor and best friend, Laurie, down when he proposes to her, and doesn’t marry until the end of the book when she meets a professor and opens a boy’s school with him. Realistically, Jo never would have married, but it is likely that at the time Alcott was forced to have her protagonist end up with someone to have the book published.
It is rumored that Alcott never wanted to write Little Women, and found that pandering to a young, female audience was not as intellectually challenging as some of her other writing feats. Many believe that the book was intended to glamorize and almost comically filter the lives of these women, so that the readers would realize that their lives are not as perfect as the novel makes them appear. Still, it is never fully discussed or confirmed, so the realisticness of Little Women is up to interpretation.
Overall, Little Women is a charming novel that serves as a glance into the lives of four strong women in this time period – however edited that glance is, though, remains unknown.