A Feminist Study of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

Topics: Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, Gender role Pages: 16 (5838 words) Published: September 8, 2012


Introduction 1 Chapter 1
Little Women and the Feminist Imagination 3
Chapter 2
Jo March: A Woman Ahead of her Times 10
Conclusion 17 Bibliography 19

"If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, together women ought to be able to turn it right side up again." - Sojourner Truth

Feminism as a movement, is about women living on equal terms with men and not pushed down by law or by culture into a subservient role. Women have been suffering under the oppression of men since time immemorial. Feminist movements which came into limelight in the 19th century inspired the concept of freedom of women. Realizing that the lack of education pushed women to the lower strata of society, education of the women was given primary emphasis. Since then, the educated women have come to the forefront of the movement to liberate women from the suppression of the patriarchal society. Louisa May Alcott was a Victorian age American novelist and short story writer. She is best known for her novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels, Good Wives (1869), Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886). The novels follows the lives of four sisters- Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March and is loosely based on the author’s childhood experiences with her three sisters. In her introduction to the novel Little women Ann Thwaite says, “what could have been ‘a Victorian moral tract, sentimental and preachy’ was written by a secret rebel against the order of the world and women’s place in it.” The independence of women is a major theme in the novel. The novel is viewed as a book that values the experiences of women and empowers women to see beyond socially prescribed gender roles. In the novel we see different interpretations of femininity and a range of different possibilities for integrating women into the male dominated society to acquire an equal stand. Although the culture of her time demanded that Alcott produce moralizing tales, she displayed a certain amount of resistance to that mandate in Little Women, preaching moderation rather than excessive religious molding. The girls are guided less by rigid moral strictures than by their strong sense of family, sometimes conveyed by words of wisdom from mother Marmee, but more often by a need to get along as a sisterly community. Self-improvement, social responsibility, domestic cooperation, and matriarchal power, as well as the importance of play and artistic development, all serve as prominent themes in Little Women. Josephine March, the second oldest of the March sisters is set up for a meaningful journey of self discovery and surprises throughout the novel. What sets Jo apart from her sisters is her determination to take up social responsibilities to exercise her matriarchal power. Throughout the novel, Jo is an independent woman. She could never be tamed or restricted to the household. She is a role model, and by marrying and essentially conforming to society doesn’t make her less of one. The project discusses the autobiographical elements from the author’s life to make the character Jo and the similarities between the character and the author herself. The project aims in bringing out the feminist perspectives in Alcott’s Little Women through a character study of Jo March. In the nineteenth century when the duties of women were strictly to develop the traits that make a good, well-behaved wife, the importance of family and femininity were emphasized in the novel. While Alcott’s views on femininity and relationships are exceedingly outdated to the present day, she was very ahead of her time when Little Women was...

Bibliography: Alberghene, Janice.M., Beverly Lyon Clark. Introduction. Little Women and the Feminist Imagination: Criticism, Controversy, Personal Essays. Ed. Janice M. Alberghene and Beverly Lyon Clark. New York: Routledge, 1999. Print.
Baym, Nina. Woman‘s Fiction. A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America. London:Cornell University Press, 1978. Print.
Fetterley, Judith. “Little Women: Alcott 's Civil War”. Children 's Literature: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. Heather Montgomery and Nicola J. Watson. Houndmills :Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 18. Print.
Little Women. Dir. Gillian Armstrong. Perf. Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Trini Alvarado, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst. Columbia Pictures, 1994. Film.
Reisen, Harriet. Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2009. 4-5. Print.
Showalter, Elaine. Introduction. Little Women. By Louisa M. Alcott. London: Penguin Books, 1989. VII-XXVIII. Print.
Sicherman, Barbara. “Reading Little Women: The Many Lives of a Text”. U.S. history as women 's history: new feminist essays. Ed.  Linda K. Kerber, Alice Kessler-Harris and Kathryn Kish Sklar. Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 1995. 257. Print
Thwaite, Ann
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