Little Women (Norton Critical Edition Series)

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Overview

This authoritative, accurate text of the first edition (1868–69) of Little Women is accompanied by textual variants and thorough explanatory annotations.
“Backgrounds and Contexts” includes a wealth of archival materials, among them previously unpublished correspondence with Thomas Niles and Alcott’s own precursors to Little Women. “Criticism” reprints twenty nineteenth-century reviews. Seven modern essays represent a variety of critical theories used to read and study the ...

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Little Women

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Overview

This authoritative, accurate text of the first edition (1868–69) of Little Women is accompanied by textual variants and thorough explanatory annotations.
“Backgrounds and Contexts” includes a wealth of archival materials, among them previously unpublished correspondence with Thomas Niles and Alcott’s own precursors to Little Women. “Criticism” reprints twenty nineteenth-century reviews. Seven modern essays represent a variety of critical theories used to read and study the novel, including feminist (Catharine R. Stimpson, Elizabeth Keyser), new historicist (Richard H. Brodhead), psychoanalytic (Angela M. Estes and Kathleen Margaret Lant), and reader-response (Barbara Sicherman). A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.

Based on the 1868-69 first edition, this text is fully annotated and is accompanied by a list of textual variations and eleven illustrations. Selections from the author's journals and 20 19th-century reviews provide a backround to the novel. Modern critical interpretations are also included.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393976144
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/19/2003
  • Series: Norton Critical Editions Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 665
  • Sales rank: 671,690
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregory Eiselein is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in English, where he teaches American Literature. He is the author of Literature and Humanitarian Reform in the Civil War Era and editor of Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems and Other Writings and Adah Isaacs Menken: Infelicia and Other Writings. With Anne K. Phillips, he coedited The Louisa May Alcott Encyclopedia.

Anne K. Phillips is Associate Professor of English at Kansas State University where she teaches Children’s Literature and American Literature. She is coauthor of Resources for Teaching the Bedford Introduction to Literature and coeditor of the annual Children’s Literature 21. With Gregory Eiselein, she coedited The Louisa May Alcott Encyclopedia.

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Read an Excerpt

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 Megshook 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''e 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 practise 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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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Abbreviations
Little Women, Part First 5
Little Women, Part Second 187
A Note on the Text 381
Textual Variants 386
Journals, Correspondence, and Biography 411
Louisa May Alcott: Journals 411
Bronson Alcott: Journals 415
Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Niles, and Bronson Alcott: Correspondence on Little Women 417
Recollections of My Childhood 428
From Louisa May Alcott: A Biography 434
Literary Contexts for Little Women 447
From The Pilgrim's Progress 447
From Wilhelm Meistar's Apprenticeship 466
The Purple Jar 466
Norna; or, The Witch's Curse 471
The Masked Marriage 496
The Sisters' Trial 504
A Modern Cinderella: or, The Little Old Shoe 515
Tilly's Christmas 537
Merry's Monthly Chat with His Friends 541
Nineteenth-Century Reviews 547
From The Nation 547
From the Albany Evening Journal 547
From the Youth's Companion 547
From the American Literary Gazette and Publisher's Circular 548
From Arthur's Illustrated Home Magazine 548
From The Lady's Friend 548
From The Ladies' Repository 549
From Godey's Lady's Book 549
From The Galaxy 549
From The Spectator 549
From The Commonwealth 550
From The National Anti-Slavery Standard 550
From The Nation 551
From the Hartford Courant 551
From Catholic World 552
From Putnam's Magazine 552
From the Galaxy 552
From The Ladies' Repository 552
From Harper's New Monthly Magazine 553
From the London Graphic 553
Modern Critical Views 554
Subversive Miss Alcott 554
"The House-Band": The Education of Men in Little Women 556
Dismembering the Text: The Horror of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women 564
Reading for Love: Canons, Paracanons, and Whistling Jo March 584
"Portrait(s) of the Artist": Little Women 600
Starting Out in the 1860s: Alcott, Authorship, and the Postbellum Literary Field 624
Reading Little Women: The Many Lives of a Text 632
Louisa May Alcott: A Chronology 659
Selected Bibliography 663
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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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 44041 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45130 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 22, 2009

    Recently I read the book Little Women; the book was very moving and uplifting. I have read this book twice now and each time I read it I got more out of it. The tie between the sisters is one that even death can't separate.

    The March family is forced to be with out their father during the war. The four sisters: Meg, the beautiful eldest, Jo, the tomboy author, Beth, the tender-hearted, and Amy, the romantic artist, face many timeless struggles that girls of all ages face. Their story only brings them closer and captures you in the process.
    In my opinion, the book Little Women is a classic book for many ages. I thought the book was interesting and I personally have read the book at least twice. The book has a timeless theme. It also has characters that relates to most.
    In conclusion, I would suggest you read it at least once. The March family reminds you that even in rough times you can get through it. Louisa May Alcott has created in my opinion a timeless book. This book will probably remain popular for many years.
    The book was interesting and great for girls especially, but don't let that stop you boys from reading it, too. I liked it so much I watched the movie.

    68 out of 84 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Heartwarming story about sisters.

    I absolutley loved this book. It gave you everything you could ask for in a novel. Drama, thrill, compasion, love. The ups and downs in this book really kept me interested. I laughed and I cried. I know that sounds cheesy; but its true. This is definitely one of my favorite books and one to keep on my shelf in my collection!

    30 out of 37 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2011

    Bn gives you this title for free when you buy a nook or nookcolor!!

    It's not costing you anything!!!! If you dont want it archive and delete it!! STOP UR COMPLAINING! How many times in life do you get something for free!!

    19 out of 50 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2008

    Book for one and everyone

    I was quite young when i first read this book, and till today no other book fascinates me like this one. When ever i'm frustrated or feeling low, this book helps me to regain my lost spirit..because it is the story of a family which faces the challenges of life, without letting go of faith in God, and their love for each other to come out triumphant.

    17 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2007

    Little Women...the time has passed.

    Little Women is one if English Literature¿s most treasured classics. Louisa May Alcott was an 18th century author who wrote about the lives of people two hundred years ago. This novel is a touching story about four sisters who fight poverty together during the 1860s where you watch the girls develop and mature from teenagers into womanhood. The four daughters remain caring and close to one another under the watchful eye of their dear mother, Marmee. Meg, Beth, Jo, and Amy learn through life¿s hardships, supporting each other and growing into delightful little women. The story commences with the March family¿s father fighting in the Civil War, while the four daughters and their mother living in poverty on Christmas day in the USA. They befriend their wealthy neighbors, the Laurences, and form a lifelong alliance with Teddy and his grandfather who help them immensely through hard times. Once Mr. March returns, the girls are overjoyed to see him, having been gone for nearly a year. The plot continues as three of the girls are captured in romances, while Beth is terribly ill. There is also travel abroad as well as other adventures at home. What exactly becomes of each of them? Well, read the book and find out. As for the other young adults today, would I recommend this book? The truth is no. This novel contains beautiful language and impressive writing, but most teenagers in the present would not appreciate this and would probably think ¿Oh no! Not another one of these boring things!¿ The majority would much rather read stories by Meg Cabot or novels such as The Devil Wears Prada. Essentially, this book is too old fashioned and verbose for the likes of most today. The time has passed and readers look for more action or romance. Most children of the 20th century would probably be better off watching the film or reading one of the shorter, modified versions ofAlcott¿s work. If you do choose to read the novel, however, you would find that the storyline is touching and enjoyable. If you happen to like this book, there is a sequel named Little Men you may want to read. A warning to all readers: this book contains several dry, wordy, and overly detailed passages.

    17 out of 38 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Little Women with Big Lessons

    Years ago, my aunt gave me this book as a gift. Of course then I didn't have my love for reading as I do now. Finally, I read it and loved it! I love everything about it, the story line, lessons, the characters, the way it was written. Granted I read this book years ago, I still remember the story line vividly. There is no question in my mind why this book is a classic. I will even go so far as to say the movie does it justice. this book is great for school, book clubs, rainy days, well actually any time. The story will suck you in and you wouldn't be able to put it down!

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An American literature classic...with an ebook that could be improved

    Little Women is a classic of American literature, and worth reading, even 150 years after its publication. However, readers do need to accept the fact that the pacing is a bit uneven and there are frequent narrative asides pointing out exactly "what we should learn from this anecdote," usually occurring just as the pace starts to pick up. Still, it's a good look at another time and place. The Barnes & Noble Classics ebook edition of Little Women is, for the most part, quite good. It comes with quite a bit of supplementary material in the form of a biography of the author; historical background of both when the book was written and the time period in which it was set; and approximately twenty pages of endnotes and footnotes, all hyper-linked within the book itself. I would have preferred to see the information about the author and her history placed at the end of the text rather than the beginning. Ditto with the introduction, which, like most such introductions, assumes the reader is already familiar with the text. The proofreading of the ebook text is...spotty. As far as I can tell it was typeset by scanning an existing print copy of the book, using OCR technology to render the text. On the whole, this works quite well, but there are a number of places where words are split oddly (e.g. "beg inning" instead of "beginning"), or specific letters were not translated correctly, leading to spelling errors (e.g. "tor" instead of "for").

    9 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    an all time favorite...

    This is one of those books that I finish and want to go back to page one and start reading all over again. Each of the March sisters is special and interesting in her own way, and even now my friends and I go back and forth about who is who among the sisters...Most of us want to be Jo, the headstrong, independent sister, who is the fictional version of the writer herself, Louisa May Alcott. Alcott wrote a couple sequels, and a serial about the Marches, but Little Women is the one that has endeared itself to so many...Although a work of fiction, Little Women has many biographical qualities...Louisa herself had three sisters: her elder sister, Anna is Meg in the book, Elizabeth is Elizabeth (Although I believe she was called Betty, not Beth), Abby May (usually just called May) is Amy...sadly, there was no real Laurie...But many of the situations that the sisters find them in were situations similar to those they really experienced--including the loss of Beth who never fully recovered from Scarlett Fever...

    9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2011

    Booorrrring!

    I read this when I was a child but as an adult, this is one of the most boring books I have ever read. I know it is a classic but I could barely plow through it.

    8 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2011

    Love this book!

    I have loved this book for years! I actually own it in print, but it was pre-loaded on my nook when I bought it, so that's just a plus! Wonderful, wonderful book!!!

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2012

    Little Women

    Honestly the orginal was the best. Don't buy this one it's not the real Little Women

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2012

    Loved it a lot Loved it a lot

    Loisa may alcott is the best auther of all

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2012

    Not so great

    To much intreduction it could have not a time line and just get on to the story

    4 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2012

    Amazing

    Amazing

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Two charming novels

    Little Women often includes the second book, Good Wives, as Part II of the same story. It's not, it's two different books in one. both are charming, sweet, sad, and quiet lessons in kindness. A true classic of literature. The characters are fit for any time period. Though the details may be in the 19th century, the attitudes are of women who are not simply subjective to society. Each character has their own traits, faults, and virtues.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2011

    A must read!

    Little Women is one of those books that can be read multiple times. Women and girls can relate to at least one of the personalities of these sisters or at least to the fighting between the sisters! A great novel that will be recommended to my girls when they are old enough.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    Little Women

    I was disappointed in the quality of paper and the print--too small.

    Thank you

    3 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2012

    An inspiring, epic novel that reminds us of the most valuable th

    An inspiring, epic novel that reminds us of the most valuable things in life: not money or station, but humiliy and love. A well-written and easy-to-read, classic that all young women should read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2012

    Tghhef

    It was ok. Key word(ok). I read it once but this book is like a one time read for peeps like meh. Once is good enuff for me. And i dont remember much bout the book which means the book was not written good enough to stick in my head. If u like cats an want to read a REAL BOOK! Look up ERIN HUNTER shes one of the few people who actually write GOOD BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or u can look up warriors.

    2 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2012

    Pros nd cons

    I loved this book. I just wish Jo would get married to Laurie. I didnt like itt when Beth died

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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