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“Little Women” is a well-known classic written by the 18th Century American author, Louisa May Alcott. Louisa May Alcott was born in Boston (it should remind you of the famous Boston Tea Party). This book that she had written in the 1860s was autobiographical. She portrayed herself and her family in the form of the Marches—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy; her mother, even though poor, helped the needy and her father served in the army. Jo was a representation of herself.
I read an edited version of “Little Women” when I was about thirteen and I did like it. I read only the first part, and I did not know that, since the book I read had only that. Then, an old friend of mine sent me an e-book in 2014 and I spent an entire Christmas vacation reading it; it had both the parts and I simply loved the book. I realised that it was philosophical, the element which I appreciated, and I was drawn towards the style of narration. The first part talks about how four little sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) struggle with a life of poverty, which is a striking resemblance to the author’s own life. Each (main) character in the story is the personification of a virtue or sin; if it is a virtue, then that quality improves, and if it is a sin, then that quality deteriorates. The story takes place during a war.
Margaret, named after her mother and also called Meg, is, I quote, “the eldest of the four, was sixteen, and very pretty, being plump and fair, with large eyes, plenty of soft brown hair, a sweet mouth, and white hands, of which she was rather vain” (people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries considered a fat or a plump girl as being beautiful, unlike to-day’s era). She is very beautiful and she knows it; she is about the only child in the family who remembers the time when her parents were rich, before they lost all their money to a cheat, and she is always craving for getting it back. Having said that, she is expected to marry for money, but she settles for Mr John Brooke, Theodore Laurence’s tutor next door, who is quite poor, much to Aunt March’s vexation. She has twins for children in Part II, whom she grows very fond of. At first, she is not able to scold them, but John Brooke teaches her to be sterner. She is very sensitive about her looks and what others might think about her and her poverty. However, as the story progresses, she becomes less obsessed and starts to be more caring. Among her sisters, as is quite common even to-day, Meg likes Amy the most.
Josephine, also called Jo, is more of a brother to all her sisters because of her masculine character and thinking. She is proud and once even throws away the chance at a tour of Europe simply because her Aunt March, whom she disliked very much, had offered it to her, her pride having come in her way. Jo loves her father dearly and even expresses her wish to join him in the army. She is very brave and does not care a penny about her appearance, as opposed to her sister Meg. As the story develops so do her writing skills, which she exhibits at the end of Part I, as a way of surprising her family. When her father is admitted to the hospital with an injury, she cuts off her long hair without hesitation and sells it as a contribution to the hospital fee, much to the chagrin of her family and friends, especially her mother, but this does not bother her. Among her sisters, Jo likes Beth the most, but rows with Amy. As the story progresses, so does she start caring about others and respecting them for who they are. She later marries a German, Professor Bhaer, whom she meets at a boarding house in Part II. At the end of Part II, Jo, with Professor Bhaer’s help, gives vent to her dream of opening a boarding school for boys.
Elizabeth, or simply Beth, is the third sister. She is very simple in her tastes and the personification of righteousness. She once risks her life to try and save a baby with scarlet fever, but ends up catching it herself. She eventually recovers from it, but it scars her physical health forever. She is the sister that everybody loves to have—she is warm, compassionate, very sweet and polite. She helps out her sisters and their neighbour, Theodore (Teddy), with their problems. Even Mr Laurence (“the old gentleman” and her “grateful friend and humble servant”), Teddy’s grandfather, becomes very fond of her and gifts her with a grand piano that his own grand-daughter used to play when she was still alive. The two eventually become very good friends. However, to everybody’s grief, Beth dies at a very early age of eighteen, the saddest being Jo, who had been Beth’s constant companion all through her life. Nevertheless, just before passing away, Beth requests her sisters to be happy and continue their lives without her, for she shall always be in their hearts.
Amy is the spoilt of all the four sisters, being the youngest. While the other three sisters either had tutors or self-studied, or, as in Jo’s case, dropped out of school to take up jobs, Amy has had a full education in an all-girls school. She is the personification of selfishness, but slowly grows to be more caring, especially towards Beth. She goes on a tour of Europe with her Aunt March in Part II (which had originally been meant for Jo), falls in love with Theodore Laurence, who happens to have been in Europe at the same time with his grandfather, and marries him, before returning back home.
Thus, Little Women makes a great read for people, from teenagers to adults, whoever is prepared to enjoy a good book in their free-time.
What struck me the most was how all four characters changed with time in order to adapt with the events.