Author: Louisa M. Alcott
Paperback: 552 pages
Publisher: Roberts Brothers
Publication Date: 1868 (1st volume); 1869 (2nd volume)
Alcott’s Little Women explores the life of March family and specifically the lives of March sisters as they make their way into adulthood.
The March family has fallen on bad times after the father lost their money. the four March sisters—the nearly perfect ‘little woman’ Meg, the tomboyish Jo, the shy but wise Beth and the artist of the family Amy—are planning to brighten up their Christmas by buying presents while their father is away, fighting the Civil War.
What becomes of the sisters as they fight the dangers of gender stereotyping while being torn between familial duties and personal growth?
This coming-of-age novel brings you a relatable yet amusing family life with the gripping tales of each of the four sisters along.
Little Women emphasises on the pressures on a young woman’s life back in the 19th century in Massachusetts. The various societal pressures, along with their families’ and to top that their own’s. The novel shows how the families burden the young women with domestic chores which takes away time for their own personal growth, desires, aspirations and dreams.
Little Women questions gender stereotypes through the characters . Jo March, who aspires to be a writer questions the conventional roles “meant” for women. She expresses her frustration over the defined gender roles. She wants to earn a living, for example; a duty conventionally reserved for men. Amy March, who aspires to be a great painter or nothing else- a quality that nineteenth-century American society loathed particularly in women.
Little Women although highlights the importance of feminism and how women should be the drivers of their own lives; yet it doesn’t portray the women as ‘god-like’ or some ‘superior beings’. It shows as a human we all have our flaws and so does the March sisters. Alcott has very much developed their characters with beauty and flaws and perfections and imperfections at a human level.
At the time, ‘Marriage’ was considered as an ultimate goal of one’s life. As it it is said in the book:
“You must marry well”
After the publication of the first volume, many girls wrote to Alcott asking her "who the little women marry." The unresolved ending added to the popularity of ‘Little Women’. Sicherman said that the unsatisfying ending worked to "keep the story alive" as if the reader might find it ended differently upon different readings.
- Little Women has been adapted to film seven times. The first adaptation was a silent film directed by Alexander Butler and released in 1917, which starred Daisy Burrell as Amy, Mary Lincoln as Meg, Ruby Miller as Jo, and Muriel Myers as Beth. It is considered a lost film.
- Another silent film adaptation was released in 1918 and directed by Harley Knoles. It starred Isabel Lamon as Meg, Dorothy Bernard as Jo, Lillian Hall as Beth, and Florence Flinn as Amy.
- George Cukor directed the first sound adaptation of Little Women, starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo, Joan Bennett as Amy, Frances Dee as Meg, and Jean Parker as Beth. The film was released in 1933 and followed by an adaptation of Little Men the year after.
- The first colour adaptation starred June Allyson as Jo, Margaret O'Brien as Beth, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy, and Janet Leigh as Meg. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, it was released in 1949.
- Gillian Armstrong directed a 1994 adaptation, which starred Winona Ryder as Jo, Trini Alvarado as Meg, Samantha Mathis and Kirsten Dunst as Amy, and Claire Danes as Beth. The film received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress for Ryder.
- A contemporary film adaptation was released in 2018 to mark the 150th anniversary of the novel. It was directed by Clare Niederpruem in her directorial debut and starred Sarah Davenport as Jo, Allie Jennings as Beth, Melanie Stone as Meg, and Elise Jones and Taylor Murphy as Amy.
- A 2019 adaptation directed by Greta Gerwig starred Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, Florence Pugh as Amy, and Eliza Scanlen as Beth. The film received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.
About the Author:
Born on November 29, 1832, in Germantown, Pennsylvania, Louisa May Alcott is best known for Little Women and its sequels Little Men and Jo’s Boys. at an early age, troubled by poverty that plagued the family, Alcott worked as a teacher, seamstress, governess, domestic helper and writer, to support her family. Writing became a creative and emotional outlet for her as a result of all the pressures. Flower Fables (1854), a selection of tales originally written for Ellen Emerson, daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was her first book. With the publication of the first part of Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy in 1868 by the Roberts Brothers, Alcott became widely known and successful. it was well received by critics and audiences.
Alcott published over 30 books and collections of stories, in all. She died in Boston, at the age of 55 after suffering from a stroke, on March 6, 1888.