Little Women and Good Wives

Overview

Life in the March household is full of adventures and accidents as the four very different March sisters follow their varying paths to adulthood, always maintaining the special bond between them. Sensible Meg, impetuous Jo, shy Beth and artistic Amy each have to confront different challenges as they grow up together and attempt to learn how to be both happy and good.

Chronicles the humorous and sentimental fortunes of the four March sisters as they grow into young ...

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Little Women and Good Wives

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Overview

Life in the March household is full of adventures and accidents as the four very different March sisters follow their varying paths to adulthood, always maintaining the special bond between them. Sensible Meg, impetuous Jo, shy Beth and artistic Amy each have to confront different challenges as they grow up together and attempt to learn how to be both happy and good.

Chronicles the humorous and sentimental fortunes of the four March sisters as they grow into young ladies and marry in nineteenth-century New England.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I try to get every girly girl to read this one because those four sisters are so real. Everybody's favourite is Jo, the tomboy who wants to be a writer."  —Jacqueline Wilson, author, Bad Girls

"The resounding message of Little Women is that no one stays the same for ever, least of all the reader . . . the power of Little Women lies absolutely in its girlish innocence."  —The Times

"It's much a part of every girl's childhood as . . . the Brothers Grimm."  —Mail on Sunday

"Spiritually rich and full of humour."  —Independent on Sunday

Library Journal

Alcott's standard gets bumped up to a Penguin Deluxe, complete with illustrated front and back covers, French flaps, and ragged paper. Very nice. Next time you're ordering new copies of LW, get this one.


—Michael Rogers
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-This audio version of Louisa May Alcott's classic is both satisfying and disappointing. The narrator, Liza Ross, a voice artist with theater and television credits, does a remarkable job of bringing to life the voices of more than ten male and female characters, allowing the personalities of each character to emerge. Meg's longing, Jo's determination, Beth's gentleness, Amy's dreaminess, Marmee's loving morality and Laurie's charm and wit all shine through. The narration is nicely punctuated by classical piano music. Listeners will be disappointed that this abridgement ends with the first part of the novel (John Brooke's proposal). This is only mentioned briefly in the story description in the inside cover of the cassette, with no indication if the second half of the novel is or is not available. Listeners in elementary and middle school will enjoy this version, but older students will want to hear more of the March family's adventures.-Jo-Ann Carhart, East Islip Public Library, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From Barnes & Noble
Meet the March sisters: the talented and tomboyish Jo, the beautiful Meg, the frail Beth, and the spoiled Amy, as they pass through the years between girlhood and womanhood. A lively portrait of growing up in the 19th century with lasting vitality and enduring charm.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780099511496
  • Publisher: Random House UK
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Series: Vintage Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 544
  • Age range: 9 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Louisa May Alcott was born in Pennsylvania in 1832, the second of four daughters of the philosopher Bronson Alcott. She was educated at home and went on to become a schoolteacher in Boston. Her first book Flower Fables was published when she was twenty-two, but she interrupted her career as a writer to nurse soldiers at a Washington hospital during the Civil War. Her most enduring book, Little Women, was published in 1868 and was an instant success. Other books include Little Men and Jo's Boys. Louisa May Alcott died in 1888 at the age of fifty-six.
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Read an Excerpt

1
Playing Pilgrims


CHRISTMAS WON'T BE Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

"We've got Father and Mother and each other," said Beth contentedly from her corner.

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly, "We haven't got Father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say "perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking of Father far away, where the fighting was.

Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone, "You know the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't." And Meg shook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted.

"But I don't think the little we should spend would do any good. We've each got a dollar, and the army wouldn't be much helped by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from Mother or you, but I do want to buy Undine and Sintram for myself. I've wanted it so long," said Jo, who was a bookworm.

"I planned to spend mine in new music," said Beth, with a little sigh, which no one heard but the hearth brush and kettle holder.

"I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing pencils. I really need them," said Amy decidedly.

"Mother didn't say anything about our money, and she won't wish us to give up everything. Let's each buy what we want, and have a little fun. I'm sure we work hard enough to earn it," cried Jo, examining the heels of her shoes in a gentlemanly manner.

"I know I do - teaching those tiresome children nearly all day, when I'm longing to enjoy myself at home," began Meg, in the complaining tone again.

"You don't have half such a hard time as I do," said Jo. "How would you like to be shut up for hours with a nervous, fussy old lady, who keeps you trotting, is never satisfied, and worries you till you're ready to fly out of the window or cry?"

"It's naughty to fret, but I do think washing dishes and keeping things tidy is the worst work in the world. It makes me cross, and my hands get so stiff, I can't practice well at all." And Beth looked at her rough hands with a sigh that any one could hear that time.

"I don't believe any of you suffer as I do," cried Amy, "for you don't have to go to school with impertinent girls, who plague you if you don't know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label your father if he isn't rich, and insult you when your nose isn't nice."

"If you mean libel, I'd say so, and not talk about labels, as if Papa was a pickle bottle," advised Jo, laughing.

"I know what I mean, and you needn't be statirical about it. It's proper to use good words, and improve your vocabilary," returned Amy, with dignity.

"Don't peck at one another, children. Don't you wish we had the money Papa lost when we were little, Jo? Dear me! how happy and good we'd be, if we had no worries!" said Meg, who could remember better times.

"You said the other day you thought we were a deal happier than the King children, for they were fighting and fretting all the time, in spite of their money."

"So I did, Beth. Well, I think we are; for, though we do have to work, we make fun for ourselves, and are a pretty jolly set, as Jo would say."

"Jo does use such slang words!" observed Amy, with a reproving look at the long figure stretched on the rug. Jo immediately sat up, put her hands in her pockets, and began to whistle.

"Don't, Jo, it's so boyish!"

"That's why I do it."

"I detest rude, unladylike girls!"

"I hate affected, niminy-piminy chits!"

"'Birds in their little nests agree,'" sang Beth, the peacemaker, with such a funny face that both sharp voices softened to a laugh, and the "pecking" ended for that time.

"Really, girls, you are both to be blamed," said Meg, beginning to lecture in her elder-sisterly fashion. "You are old enough to leave off boyish tricks, and to behave better, Josephine. It didn't matter so much when you were a little girl; but now you are so tall, and turn up your hair, you should remember that you are a young lady."

"I'm not! And if turning up my hair makes me one, I'll wear it in two tails till I'm twenty," cried Jo, pulling off her net, and shaking down a chestnut mane. "I hate to think I've got to grow up, and be Miss March, and wear long gowns, and look as prim as a China aster! It's bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boys' games and work and manners! I can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy; and it's worse than ever now, for I'm dying to go and fight with Papa, and I can only stay at home and knit, like a poky old woman!" And Jo shook the blue army sock till the needles rattled like castanets, and her ball bounded across the room.

"Poor Jo! It's too bad, but it can't be helped. So you must try to be contented with making your name boyish, and playing brother to us girls," said Beth, stroking the rough head at her knee with a hand that all the dishwashing and dusting in the world could not make ungentle in its touch.

"As for you, Amy," continued Meg, "you are altogether too particular and prim. Your airs are funny now, but you'll grow up an affected little goose, if you don't take care. I like your nice manners and refined ways of speaking, when you don't try to be elegant. But your absurd words are as bad as Jo's slang."

"If Jo is a tomboy and Amy a goose, what am I, please?" asked Beth, ready to share the lecture.

"You're a dear, and nothing else," answered Meg warmly; and no one contradicted her, for the "Mouse" was the pet of the family.

As young readers like to know "how people look," we will take this moment to give them a little sketch of the four sisters, who sat knitting away in the twilight, while the December snow fell quietly without, and the fire crackled cheerfully within. It was a comfortable old room, though the carpet was faded and the furniture very plain; for a good picture or two hung on the walls, books filled the recesses, chrysanthemums and Christmas roses bloomed in the windows, and a pleasant atmosphere of home peace pervaded it.

Margaret, the eldest of the four, was sixteen, and very pretty, being plump and fair, with large eyes, plenty of soft, brown hair, a sweet mouth, and white hands, of which she was rather vain. Fifteen-year-old Jo was very tall, thin, and brown, and reminded one of a colt, for she never seemed to know what to do with her long limbs, which were very much in her way. She had a decided mouth, a comical nose, and sharp, gray eyes, which appeared to see everything, and were by turns fierce, funny, or thoughtful. Her long, thick hair was her one beauty, but it was usually bundled into a net, to be out of her way. Round shoulders had Jo, big hands and feet, a flyaway look to her clothes, and the uncomfortable appearance of a girl who was rapidly shooting up into a woman and didn't like it. Elizabeth - or Beth, as everyone called her - was a rosy, smooth-haired, bright-eyed girl of thirteen, with a shy manner, a timid voice, and a peaceful expression which was seldom disturbed. Her father called her "Little Tranquillity," and the name suited her excellently, for she seemed to live in a happy world of her own, only venturing out to meet the few whom she trusted and loved. Amy, though the youngest, was a most important person - in her own opinion at least. A regular snow maiden, with blue eyes, and yellow hair curling on her shoulders, pale and slender, and always carrying herself like a young lady mindful of her manners. What the characters of the four sisters were we will leave to be found out.
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Table of Contents

Introduction vii
Suggestions for Further Reading xxix
A Note on the Text xxxi
Little Women
Preface xxxv
Part I1
Part II236
Notes 493
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First Chapter

Playing Pilgrims


"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have lots of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

"We've got father and mother, and each other, anyhow," said Beth, contentedly, from her corner.

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly?

"We haven't got father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say "perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking of father far away, where the fighting was.

Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone, "You know the reason mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas, was because it's going to be a hard winter for every one; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't;" and Meg shook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted.

"But I don't think the little we should spend would do any good. We've each got a dollar, and the army wouldn't be much helped by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from mother or you, but I do want to buy Undine and Sintram for myself; I've wanted it so long,' said Jo, who was a bookworm.

"I planned to spend mine in new music," said Beth, with a little sigh, which no one heard but the hearth-brush andkettle-holder.

"I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing pencils; I really need them," said Amy, decidedly.

"Mother didn't say anything about our money, and she won't wish us to give up everything. Let's each buy what we want, and have a little fun; I'm sure we grub hard enough to earn it," cried Jo, examining the heels of her
boots in a gentlemanly manner.

"I know I do, teaching those dreadful children nearly all day, when I'm longing to enjoy myself at home," began Meg, in the complaining tone again.

"You don't have half such a hard time as I do," said Jo. "How would you like to be shut up for hours with a nervous, fussy old lady, who keeps you trotting, is never satisfied, and worries you till you're ready to fly out of the window or box her ears?"

"It's naughty to fret, but I do think washing dishes and keeping things tidy is the worst work in the world. It makes me cross; and my hands get so stiff, I can't practice good a bit." And Beth looked at her rough hands with a sigh that any one could hear that time.

"I don't believe any of you suffer as I do," cried Amy; "for you don't have to go to school with impertinent girls, who plague you if you don't know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label your father if he isn't rich, and insult you when your nose isn't nice."

"If you mean libel I'd say so, and not talk about labels, as if pa was a pickle-bottle," advised Jo, laughing.
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Reading Group Guide

1. In the first two chapters, the girls use John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress as a model for their own journey to becoming "little women." What was Alcott trying to say by using such a strongly philosophical piece of literature as the girls' model?

2. What purpose does Beth's death serve? Was Alcott simply making a sentimental novel even more so, or was this a play on morality and philosophy? Do you think Beth was intended to be a Christ figure?

3. Consider the fact that Beth will never reach sexual maturity or marry. What do you think this says about the institution of marriage and, more important, about womanhood?

4. Consider Jo's writing: While we are treated to citations from "The Pickwick Portfolio" and the family's letters to one another, we are never presented with an excerpt from Jo's many literary works, though the text tells us they are quite successful. Why is this?

5. Do you find it surprising that once Laurie is rejected by Jo, he falls in love with Amy? Do you feel his characterization is complete and he is acting within the "norm" of the personality Alcott has created for him, or does Alcott simply dispose of him once our heroine rejects him?

6. Some critics argue that the characters are masochistic. Meg is the perfect little wife, Amy is the social gold digger, and Beth is the eternally loving and patient woman. Do you believe these characterizations are masochistic? If so, do you think Alcott could have characterized them any other way while maintaining the realism of the society she lived in? And if this is true, what of Jo's character?

7. The last two chapters find Jo setting aside her buddingliterary career to run a school with her husband. Why do you think Alcott made her strongest feminine figure sacrifice her own life plans for her husband's?

8. Alcott was a student of transcendentalism. How and where does this philosophy affect Alcott's writing, plot, and characterization?

9. Do you believe this is a feminine or a feminist piece of work?

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