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Little Women: Analysis and Key Points in the Novel

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The book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a historical novel set in Massachusetts about a family with four sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. They used to be wealthy, but their father lost their money. Then, he went to fight in the Civil War. They live with their mother, and their housekeeper/cook/close family friend, Hannah.

Meg is the oldest and very pretty. She does well on her house chores and is very kind and has good manners, but wishes they were still wealthy and can’t help comparing herself to other rich girls, or being jealous. She works as a governess to help earn money for her family.Jo is the second oldest daughter. Her real name is Josephine, but she is boyish and goes by Jo. Jo loves writing and often will write short plays that she and her sisters then perform on a makeshift stage at home. She also loves the great outdoors and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. But she sometimes has bad manners and speaks without thinking. Jo earns money helping her Aunt March.Beth is the second youngest of the four and very timid. Although she is shy, she has a big heart and always helps all that she can around the house. She also loves music and plays the little piano they own when they sing songs together.Amy is the youngest sister and the most artistic. She loves doing art (mostly painting and drawing) and has good manners, but she is very stubborn and always criticizes her looks, especially her nose. She also tries to use long fancy words, often in French, and frequently uses the wrong word. For example, instead of saying fascinating, she would say fastidious (demanding or hard to please). Amy is also the only one that goes to school.

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The four sisters navigate the perks and downfalls of growing up. They have loving parents and a good family, but they still have problems like getting over pride, jealousy, and anger. The story starts at Christmas when Marmee gives each of the sisters a little book titled The Pilgrim’s Progress by Paul Bunyan, each with different binding colors. The point is to guide them through life and help them with their problems.

Jo met a boy named Laurence that moved in next door with his rich grandfather after his dad died. The two families quickly became great friends. Mr. Laurence (Laurie’s grandpa), got to know all of the sisters, except for shy Beth. He wanted to get to know her too, so he invited her over to play his grand piano. Beth reminded Mr. Laurence of his deceased granddaughter that was sweet like Beth and loved to play the piano. When she made him a pair of slipper in thanks, he showed his thanks for the slippers by giving Beth a high-quality little piano of her own.

Being the only one out of the four that attended school, Amy always tried to uphold her reputation. One of the ways to do this was to bring pickled limes to school and share them with friends. She became ‘in debt’ with pickled limes because Marmee wouldn’t give Amy pocket money, so Meg gave her a quarter to buy pickled limes. These she brought to school and was immediately invited to parties, but she wouldn’t give any to Jenny Snow, who had recently insulted her. Jenny then told their teacher, Mr. Davis, who had just banned pickled limes, that Amy had some. Mr. Davis then punished Amy, who, being a proud girl, was very hurt and upset and didn’t go to school for a while.

After that, Jo and Meg were invited to a play and Amy wanted to go. Meg was going to let her go, but Jo didn’t agree, and Amy stayed behind. So, Amy decided to get revenge on Jo by burning Jo’s book manuscript, but felt bad afterward and tried to make it up to Jo. To get back at Amy, Jo went ice skating with Laurie and didn’t tell Amy where the ice was thin. This caused Amy to break through the ice and when Joe and Laurie finally got her out of the water, she was cold and shivering. They took her home and she got a cold but could have died, which greatly affected Jo. After these events, Jo and Amy tried harder to restrain their pride, and anger, with some success.

One day, Marmee got a message saying that their father was very ill and that she must come at once. She went as soon as possible to the hospital in Washington, DC accompanied by Mr. John Brooke, Laurie’s tutor. The girls stayed at home doing chores and jobs as usual with Hannah. Those were troubling times and the girls were instructed to do everything as normal, and not to forget about the Hummels, a poor German family in need of help. A while after, they got a letter that their father was doing better.

As told, Beth went to the Hummels every day to help care for all the children, including the sick baby. Once when she came back, Jo found Beth crying in the closet. The baby had died in her arms from scarlet fever while Mrs. Hummel was getting the doctor. He said that the other children also had scarlet fever and told Beth to run home immediately and take some medicine. Having already had scarlet fever, Meg and Jo stayed home while Amy went to stay with Aunt March. Unlike her father, Beth got worse and worse instead of better to the point where they had to call Marmee to return home.

The night Marmee returned home, Beth nearly died but with her mother’s care, she began to improve. Mr. Brooke stayed with Mr. March and they surprised the family by returning on Christmas Eve. The family was reunited and had a wonderful Christmas. Mr. Brooke and Meg got engaged. Laurie had fallen in love with Jo didn’t feel the same way for him. So to avoid hurting him, Jo got a job in New York City caring for the children of her mother’s friend who ran a boarding house. While there, she became close friends with Mr. Fritz Bhaer, a German professor who was staying at the boarding house. Meanwhile, Amy was invited to travel to Europe with their Aunt Carrol and their cousin Flo.

While in New York, Jo earned money by writing stories for a magazine. Her goal was to earn enough money to take Beth to the seaside for some fresh air when she got home. She went home as soon as she reached her goal and took Beth to the seaside. When at the seaside, Beth told Jo her secret: Beth was dying.

When they got home, Jo, Meg, and their parents gave Beth the best time they could give her and spent all of their free time taking care of her. Amy was still in Europe and was told not to come home and ruin her trip. Laurie was also in Europe after he faced the truth that Jo did not love him back.Beth eventually died and while Laurie was comforting Amy, being the only close family friend in Europe, they fell in love and got married in Europe. Meanwhile, back at home, Meg and John Brooke had twins, Daisy and Demi, and Jo thought she was going to be a spinster. However, Mr. Bhaer surprised her by coming to Massachusets. Marmee, Father, John, Daisy, Demi, Meg, Amy, and even Laurie all liked him very much. In the end, Jo and Mr. Bhaer got married.

Aunt March died and left her big mansion to Jo. Jo and Mr. Bhaer turned it into a boarding school for boys. That is the setting for the sequel, Little Men. 

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