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Analysis of 'Little Women' as a Feminist Novel

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Little Women is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott composed soon after the Civil War in light of a publisher’s interest for a novel, which was initially distributed in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, as two books. Little Women transcends many of the gender stereotypes ideals of the nineteenth century. In Little Women, Alcott challenged society’s meaning of cliche of stereotypical gender roles and pushed the limits of expectancies that were placed on both women and men to conform to society’s standards. Alcott desired that her writing should speak out on the injustices located upon humanity and urge society to end the constraint. Alcott breaks numerous stereotypes by giving two of her fundamental characters,Jo and Laurie, names that would as a rule signify somebody of the opposite gender. Also, Alcott uses Beth’s demise to represent the death of the perfect woman. In doing so, Alcott is challenging the concept that such a position is the main worthy female way of life. Finally, the person Jo changes the maximum of all, becoming extra female and much less tomboyish through the stop of the unconventional. Alcott’s surprising advancement of Jo’s individuality makes a statement that women can be most effectively married and feminine, however also happily impartial and self-sufficient. 

In addition to granting her literary acclaim, feminist research has mentioned Alcott’s function in advancing liberal feminist ideas. These values advocated equality within the homes of girls as well as within the public sphere, manifested inside the rights to self-realization, work and vote. Alcott’s vision, as pondered in Little Women, turned into creating a democratic home where both sexes could shed gender stereotypes. In this fashion, women could work and participate in political lifestyles and men might be partners in managing the household, raising and educating children alongside women.

This is a feminine novel of initiation that follows the four March daughters as they become functioning residents of society, pleasurable their feminine and spiritual duties. They are girls on the home front, in their households, even as their father is on the front, combating for the North inside the American Civil War. These are ladies on hold, awaiting their destiny partner, trying to be “good” and “obedient” in keeping with the Protestant values that the book advances. They are reputedly given the spatial enclosure characterizing their lives, and turn their domestic right into a vibrant world, an area of love, benevolence and support. Alcott’s well-rounded portrayal, however, of imperfect girls, particularly ambitious, independent tomboy Jo, as well as her outstanding resistance to the conventional “marriage plot” of her time, have afforded the novel a long-lasting, if conflicted, dating to feminist thought.

If Little Woman has a radical, rebellious spirit it is embedded in Jo March ‘s image. Jo is a fun, witty tomboy with a wild personality of powerful will and a raging desire to be a novelist. Jo is defined at the start of Little Women as having a ‘gentlemanly’ manner. She tells her sisters that she has no desire to “stay home and knit, like a poky old woman!” but to fight in the Civil War with their father. In Little women, marxist feminism shows that the conception of a woman or herself is a result of her social life and is primarily determined by the kind of work she does because of Jo March’s tomboy perception about herself as a guy who might substitute her father when her father was in service, she worked hard to helped her mother raise money to be a breadwinner for her family.

‘I’m the oldest,’ began Meg, but Jo cut in with a decided, ‘I’m the man of the family now Papa is away.

In the novel Marxist feminism suggests the characters display the price of women’s work and encourage greater equality and capitalism is the purpose of women’s oppression that’s depicted through the function of individual positions inside the novel.

Alcott decided to write a novel that offered more choices for women than for marriage and babies. Meg is engaged at the conclusion of Part One, but all of the women are still single. Alcott tried to show the girls had their entire lives ahead of them, and particularly Jo, will not adhere to the traditional ‘marriage plot.’ Since facing a great deal of criticism from her writers and editors, Alcott published the second volume of the book, which depicts all the women encountering more traditional domestic fates. Meg married and soon got pregnant, Amy married Laurie, a boy next door, and Jo married Professor Bhaer, a rather old man, and finally gave birth to two girls.The only sibling which doesn’t marry is Becky, who died at an early age. In many ways, the second volume directly contradicts Alcott’s desire to avoid the ‘marriage plot.’ 

Alcott tended to be a radical throughout the second volume, mainly by refusing to marry Jo and Laurie. Laurie depicted him as a traditional romantic character. But rather, as Laurie proposes, Jo denies all standard romantic ideals to preserve her freedom and identity. She claims she doesn’t want to marry, since she “loves liberty too well to be in a hurry to give it up for any mortal man.” And while she loves Laurie, she’s not ready to give up her desire to be a ‘proper wife’ for him:

You’ll get over this after a while, and find some lovely accomplished girl, who will adore you, and make a fine mistress for your fine house. I shouldn’t. I’m homely and awkward and odd, and you’d be ashamed of me, and we should quarrel—we can’t help it even now, you see—and I shouldn’t like elegant society and you would, and you’d hate my scribbling, and I couldn’t get on without it, and we should be unhappy, and wish we hadn’t done it, and everything would be horrid!

Alcott had not really wanted to marry Jo by all accounts at all. But she did so in the most untraditional way possible, because her hand was forced. For a novel from the 19th century Bhaer himself is not a standard romantic interest. He is Jo’s senior for about fifteen years, he has a dramatized German accent, and horrendous manners at the table. He can’t get down to his knees as he proposes to her during a rainstorm because the ground is so muddy and because his hands are full he can’t lend her his physical hand. Jo looked ‘far from beautiful’ at the moment, when she’s soaked with dirt and the rain damages her clothing. And then,

“Mr. Bhaer considered her the most beautiful woman living, and she found him more ‘Jove-like’ than ever, though his hat brim was quite limp with the little rills trickling thence upon his shoulders… and every finger of his gloves needed mending.”

More troubling than Jo’s decision to marry is her overall character arc, which sees her transform into a gentle ‘womanly’ version of herself from a ‘wild,’ spirited girl. But instead when Beth gets ill Jo initiates a profound change and ‘see the nature of Beth ‘s grace and warmth.The whole first half of the novel basically consists of the mother of the children,’ Marmee, ‘regulating their gender, telling them to deny the’ evils ‘of femininity and maintaining only the most feminine qualities, such as softness, self sacrifice and dignity. At first, this gender policing doesn’t seem to work on Jo, since she has no desire to appear more feminine. But instead when Beth gets ill Jo initiates a profound change and ‘sees the nature of Beth ‘s grace and warmth.

Jo laid her wearied head down on Beth’s little brown hood, which no one had thought of moving from the table where she left it. It must have possessed some magic, for the submissive spirit of its gentle owner seemed to enter into Jo.

Jo learning to become more compassionate is not inherently anti-feminist, particularly knowing that Little Women is a didactic novel meant to teach morality. It is definitely anti-feminist, that this shift in her attitude dulls her daring attitude too. She goes from composing stories about adventure to more rational, moralistic novels, very related to Little Women ‘s style. She advises Amy that she needs to be a ‘reformer,’ but instead starts a school for boys instead of engaging in politics. 

The novel Little Women blends traditional feminist concepts about gender equity with progressive feminist concepts of reform in the very nature of the concept of gender, ‘man’ and ‘female,’ as well as encouraging a shift to a revised meaning that challenges patriarchal expectations relevant to these groups. In the novel, the radical feminist concept according to which the ‘personal is political’ is demonstrated by describing the tales and ways of a New England family during the American Civil War. Alcott tried to expand Emerson’s view of women’s self-reliance, self-awareness, and non-compliance and shared her thoughts in her fiction. Alcott finishes Little Women with a utopian society that succeeds as both sexes commit to manual labour and political dialogue, unlike the tragic Fruit-lands escapade of her father. Fruitlands’ imbalance, and failure doesn’t extend to Plum-field. Rather, this culture creates an array of food, practically and metaphoric, as a result of Jo March Bhaer ‘s dream.  

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Analysis Of ‘Little Women’ As A Feminist Novel. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 25, 2023, from
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