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Little Women: Deconstructing Gender Roles and Expectations

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While on the surface a straightforward story about the four March girls’ journeys from childhood to adulthood, Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig, centers on the conflict between two phases in a young woman’s life — that which she places on herself, which she places on her family. Within the novel, stress on domestic duties and family detracts from various women’s abilities to attend to their own personal growth. For Jo and, in some cases, Amy, the matter of being both knowledgeable artist and a dutiful woman creates conflict and pushes the boundaries set by nineteenth-century American society.

In Little Women, the characters and setting usually contrast between feminine women and a male-dominated society. First is that the protagonist of the movie, and therefore the second-oldest March sister, Jo, who wants to be a writer. Jo encompasses a temper and a fast tongue, although she works hard to manage both. She could be a tomboy and reacts impatiently to the numerous limitations placed on women and girls. She hates romance in her reality and needs nothing over to carry her family together. Next is the oldest March sister. Responsible and type, Meg mothers her younger sisters. She encompasses a small weakness for luxury and leisure, but the greater a part of her is gentle, loving, and morally vigorous. Then there’s the third March daughter. Beth is extremely quiet and extremely virtuous, and he or she does nothing but tries to please others. She adores music and plays the piano fine. Lastly is that the youngest March girl. Amy is an artist who adores visual beauty and encompasses a weakness for pretty possessions. She is given to pouting, fits of temper, and vanity; but she does try and improve herself.

When the movie begins, the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth, board rural geographical region during the warfare. The name of the town is Plumfield, but the setting is probably going Concord, Massachusetts, the historic town within which Louisa May Alcott, the author of the book that this movie is originally adapted from, lived when she was growing up. The March girls’ father is functioning as a chaplain within the war, and therefore the year is probably going 1862 or 1863. The movie opens at Christmas when the ladies mourn the loss of their family’s wealth, but they finish up giving their presents to the poor. Later, Amy visits Europe together with her wealthy aunt, and Laurie, their neighbor, also goes to Europe along with his grandfather. Jo leaves to work for a long time as a nanny in the big apple City, where she also tries to be a writer. At the end of the movie, Jo returns to her family’s house.

Little Women’s title alone has become a cornerstone of Yankee culture, spawning a complete industry of ‘girl books’ and literature for and about young women. But all this girliness is not only sweetness and lightweight. Actually the title Little Women is usually criticized as suggesting the gender stereotypes that this book upholds. After all, if you interpret ‘little women’ to mean ‘girls,’ then the implication is that girls don’t seem to be free-spirited children but miniature versions of their adult counterparts. Alternatively, if ‘little women’ describes the ladies that these girls grow into, then it seems rather demeaning – literally belittling the importance of the ladies. The movie ends with a celebration for Marmee. All of the various families gather together for a picnic, together with the boys from Jo’s private school, and for this occasion, there seems to be one nuclear family, rather than a series of satellite families splintering faraway from the initial. The picnic reinforces Mrs. March’s matriarchal role and therefore the novel’s suggestion that female influence encompasses a strong moral role to play, not only within the family but also within society as a full.

Around the fundamental quantity of the warfare women within the U.S. had few rights but many expectations placed upon them. Women couldn’t own land, vote, or sell property. Instead, society expected them to worry for his or her families by cooking and cleaning, with little to no say within the finances of the family and therefore the political battles happening around them. During this point, many ladies also began to figure long hours in factories to support their families and in various war efforts additionally to their domestic roles. In Little Women, there have been four sisters accustomed to demonstrate the gender roles and expectations of the many nineteenth-century girls on the verge of womanhood during and after the warfare. Although the ladies knew their expected role in society, they often took a feminist approach and disagreed with society’s limitations. 

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Little Women: Deconstructing Gender Roles And Expectations. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from
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