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The Struggles of Growing Up in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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Everyone has to learn to grow up. Unfortunately, it was a lot harder for women in the past. Women had to find a husband in order to survive. There were not many jobs available. Women could become a teacher, governess, or they could sew. Some could become writers or artists, but they did not make as much money as men. If a woman lost her husband, it would be hard for her to make enough money to take care of her family. Women used to be encouraged by society to rely on their husbands and to not be independent. In the book Little Women, Louisa May Alcott talks about how the four March sisters have to grow up while their father is a chaplain in the war. She bases the book on her own family. This is one reason why the book is so well liked. She bases the character Jo on herself. Meg, Beth, and Amy are based on her three sisters Anna, Elizabeth, and May. Each of the girls has a different personality that young readers can relate to. Like her own family, the Marches are very poor. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy have to help their mother, Marmee, work and take care of their house. They can barely afford Christmas gifts. The girls are encouraged by society to marry a man for money. Their mother, however, encourages them to be independent. Like the Alcott sisters, each of the March girls learns to become independent and think for themselves. In Little Women, Alcott creates a fictional family that is similar to her own.

The March family is based off of the Alcott family, and family is a priority for both Jo and Alcott. Alcott bases each of the March sisters on her own sisters, and many of the other characters are based on people she met throughout her life.

She creates the characters’ personalities to be like her sisters, and they are all very different. Jo is very tomboyish, and Beth is very shy. Meg and Amy both want nice things that they cannot afford. Bussey explains, “Each sister has a unique personality, rather than a generic childlike temperament. Alcott’s presentation of young girls who are flawed and struggling with growing up was revolutionary at the time”. Many of the young girls can picture themselves as one of the characters.

Because the book is based on a real family, the characters are more realistic. Aller explains, “Girls all over the country fell in love with the March family. For the first time, someone had written a book about a family that spoke and acted the way real families did . . .”. Girls can feel like they are friends with the March sisters. Readers might be going through struggles similar to the ones that the characters go through in the book.

Many authors create characters that do not speak like real people. The March family talks to each other like a real family would. Readers might feel like they are sitting in the living room around the fire and having a conversation with the Marches. Silverthorne explains, “they seem as real as our own neighbors. And the reason they are so realistic is that they are based on the real family of Louisa May Alcott”. Because of how realistic it is, many readers love the book.

Family is definitely a priority in the book. Jo cares about her family very much, and this is based off of Alcott’s real life. Jo and her sisters are very close. Readers can relate to this, which is why Alcott is asked to write many sequels.

Throughout the novel, the March sisters grow up and figure out who they are. Each of the sisters has a completely different personality, and their mother encourages them to be independent. Many young readers can relate to at least one of the March sisters and her personality.

Marmee wants her daughters to be confident young women. Thomason explains, “Marmee encourages them to be confident in themselves and to mature in wisdom and self-knowledge. Adolescence is a difficult period for anyone, so the girls’ struggles are universal. Throughout the novel, the girls’ basic identities remain consistent, but as they grow up, they come to understand their faults and work to improve themselves”. Marmee knows that being a teenager is a hard time, but she tries to encourage her girls to stay true to themselves and become independent. Anyone reading the book could be going through the same thing as one of the sisters, and the book could help someone through a hard time.

Each of the girls also has to overcome a struggle. One good example of a struggle is Jo’s anger. Jo tries so hard to be patient, but it takes her many years to control her anger. Meg has to overcome her vanity, and Beth has to learn not to be so shy. Amy struggles with thoughtlessness. Towards the end of the book, Beth March dies. All of her loved ones struggle with her death. Many young readers go through similar struggles. These things are important parts of growing up and people can learn about who they are. Girls can learn how to handle their struggles if they read about the March sisters going through the same thing. They can look up to the characters.

The girls’ father, Mr. March, asks each of them to be “little women” while he is away at war. In the novel, he declares , ‘I know they will remember all I 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”. He wants them to conquer their enemies so that he will be even prouder of them when he comes home. Jo wants to please her father by helping her mother and trying to overcome her anger. She wants to be the “little woman” that he wants her to be. Jo loves her father, and she wants him to be proud of her.

The March family is not poor, but they do not have any extra money. The Marches are always able to afford food, and they are never in danger of losing their house. Marmee cannot afford to buy many Christmas presents for her daughters. They still try to give what they can to help others. On Christmas morning they give breakfast to an extremely poor family.

Marmee teaches the girls that they must work. She teaches them how to help her around the house. She also supports Jo’s dream of becoming a writer. Gabin explains, “Little Women also emphasizes the value of women working outside the home”. Marmee teaches her daughters the value of money. Thomason says, “Marmee encourages her girls to think for themselves and to pursue true happiness, which, she believes, does not necessarily come from having money. If her daughters never marry, Marmee will be satisfied as long as they are wise, respectable, and accomplished women”. She wants the girls to know that it does not matter how much money they have, as long as they are happy.

When their father returns from the war, the sisters begin looking for a husband. They are still very young, but many people insist that they marry for wealth. However, none of the girls will marry someone they do not love. Despite how women are being treated at the time, the four sisters are encouraged by their mother to be independent and stay true to themselves. In Little Women, she says, ‘Money is a needful and precious thing, and when well used, a noble thing, but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace’. Marmee teaches the girls it is more important for them to marry someone they love than to marry someone because they have a lot of money.

Like the Marches, the Alcott family struggles with money. The only reason Alcott originally writes the story is to make money for her family. She does not write the book to tell everyone about the struggles of her childhood. The Alcott family needs money and she is asked to write a book. Aller says, “Louisa entered her vortex and began to write a fictional story based on her memories of growing up. She and her sisters became the ‘little women’ of the March family”. She loves writing, so she is happy to help support her family. However, a story about her family is not her first choice to write about.

Alcott writes Little Women to describe her own family, their struggles with growing up, and how they make money. She creates the fictional March family based on herself and her family. She talks about many struggles that readers can relate to. The Alcott sisters and the March sisters struggle with money and growing up. The book is written for the purpose of making money for the Alcott family. Readers can definitely relate to the story, because it is based on a real family, and their struggles are universal. People around the world have struggles growing up. Lots of people struggle with money. Many families do not have a father to help support them. Alcott writes about how her family got through hard times. Young readers can learn from this. If a person is going through a hard time, it helps to read about someone going through the same thing. While Alcott is writing Little Women, she does not expect it to become popular. However, it becomes her most popular book and is loved by many readers.

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The Struggles of Growing Up in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
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