[First paragraph, first version]
[First paragraph, revised]
"I know they will remember all I have said to them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully, that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women." (p. 12)
Louisa May Alcott in her novel Little Women portrays a family of four girls and their mother who are dealing with all of life's many trials as they grow into womanhood. The lines above are from a letter from their father, Mr. March, who implores his "little women" to do all of the proper things in order to make him proud. Right away we are given the reason for the book's title and basically the major conflict of the novel: for the March girls to better themselves in order to be upright women in society. The book becomes almost an instructional of how young ladies should act in order to gain respect, find husbands, and then experience happiness. All four daughters have very different personalities, and therefore different battles with their own faults. As they mature, however, all of the surviving March girls follow the path of marriage. Alcott seems to be relaying to her audience that marriage is in fact the proper place for a little woman. Even Jo, the most resistant daughter to this restrictive social order, eventually weds despite her early ambitions of total autonomy and independence. Although Alcott hopes to convey a positive perspective on how these girls may become strong, proud women, she provides marriage as the only course a young woman can take in life and be happy. Through her depiction of how the independent, boyish Jo develops into Miss March, and eventually to Mrs. Bhaer, Alcott leaves little room for thoughts of a woman's life being complete without a husband.
ENLT 214M, 26 Sept. & 10 October 1997